EDITORIAL: We can’t afford to let SSA’s good record slip
IT IS NOT HARD to identify state agencies whose daily operations are characterised by inefficiencies. The Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) is not one of them.
And what makes their work that much more commendable is the fact that it has been many years since it has been blessed with adequate equipment and manpower.
In fact, when it is considered that for over a decade now the SSA has not had an appointed general manager, that for even longer its workers have been crying out for an adequate collection fleet, and compaction equipment at the Mangrove Pond Landfill has not been equal to the task for decades, the island’s garbage collection should be one massive stink.
But for all their shortcomings, both management and staff have by and large kept the island clean. However, it appears that those who are in charge of our national affairs are now operating on the premise that if they have got the job done with so little equipment for so long, it really is not necessary to expend the money on improvement.
If that is in fact the position of Government, it is a wrong-headed one. If anything, the opposite is true: our sanitation workers have worked so hard with what little they have been given that they more than deserve relief. It is unacceptable that the SSA needs between 30 and 35 trucks on the road to properly fulfil its mandate, but currently it has just 25, and of those only 15 are in working order.
The end result is that crews have to work all kinds of ungodly hours, and the trucks become more prone to failure because they cannot be subjected to an appropriate maintenance routine since as soon as one shift is ended, there is another crew waiting for vehicles to service other routes.
We also make this call at this time because even if we tolerate these unsightly garbage piles most of the year, we really should present a better face to our visitors when we move into the peak period for tourist arrivals.
Government needs to come up with a scheme to restock the SSA, and if it does not have the wherewithal to purchase a large number of trucks outright, then it must look at leasing or a loan arrangement to facilitate the acquisition.
As part of its medium- to long-term strategy for improving garbage collection, the Government also needs to look at the lessons learnt when SSA workers went on strike earlier this year. During that time it turned to private collectors, who did what appeared to be a commendable job.
Our question therefore is: Is there room for engaging a specific number of private waste haulers to service designated routes and types of customers, thus leaving the SSA to more adequately cover those that its equipment would allow? Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley has just piloted the integration of private commuter transport operators into the state-operated system. What is to stop this kind of thing being considered in relation to garbage collection?
We don’t believe the numbers have been made public, but historical patterns would suggest that private contractors would be able to do the job more cost effectively than a state agency.
Unless those responsible are prepared to provide the SSA with the resources required to do the job, and to be forward thinking enough to see what initiatives could be employed to create a more efficient operation, it is very likely that the agency’s good record will slip and it will soon become one of those state entities known for poor service.
We admonish those responsible to ensure that today’s scenario at the SSA does not become the norm.