A look at the activity at the Weymouth depot showed buses waiting to be deployed and others on repair. (FILE)
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Like many Barbadians across the island, I read with relief the news that at least 50 buses were repaired and added to the transportation fleet.
I distinctly remember the days of waiting sometimes several hours for bus service and I could well imagine with only 42 operational buses, that wait time would have increased for many, leading to frustration for commuters and minimized productivity for business due to lateness from employees and a myriad of other economic and social issues.
There were; however, two areas of interest in this article that caught my attention and lead to several questions:
”Garages that work for the Board have been put on notice by management that their output and turnover in the repair of units must be improved, especially for minor defects.”
It is good that a target has been established for the output and turnover of repairs. However, I do imagine that there may be several reasons for the delay in bus repairs:
- Has it been identified why the suggested system is not already in place? I would imagine as a garage employee, if I had two broken buses before me and one would take one day to fix and the other three months, the one-day fix should become priority. Have we ascertained the potential reasons why this does not already happen?
- Are the tools / equipment for the quick fix available? If not, what is the process to obtain these items with minimal delay?
- Are the parts required for the quick fix in the country or will it require a purchase order to have them brought into the island and the expected chain of command for the approval of the order?
- Are the garage employees fixing other buses in the interim so that they do not remain idle while they wait for what is required to conduct the quick fix?
- Do they have the necessary knowledge and training to make the repairs, even if they have been able to identify the problem?
- Is there an incentive tied to the number of buses properly repaired or is their compensation the same regardless of the number of buses repaired and the length of time taken to do so?
- Is there a penalty for not meeting the established targets?
- Have targets been established?
“A plan has been agreed on with Simpson Motors, the exclusive authorised provider of Mercedes Benz parts which many of the buses use, to source parts to ensure the objectives will be met.”
There have been countless calls for a Contractor General and I will not reiterate the reasons why this call is critical; however, this is a situation where the Contractor General would be very useful. As creatures of habit even in our personal lives, we tend to use only one supplier without investigating alternative options.
One particular store or brand has become our sole source for furniture, electronics, food, etc., without recognition that there may be better options out there for our growing needs. However, this approach can potentially lead to complacency.
A few questions then that come to mind include:
- When was the last time the process for the purchase of buses and bus parts placed for tender?
- What is the established time period for the review and potential rotation of current vendors? Five years? Ten years?
- Have we done a comparison with other local, regional or international providers to identify whether a better product is available?
- Have we done any negotiations with the existing supplier for improvements with the prices or services offered?
- What are the warranty options included in the existing contracts and is it possible to negotiate the terms that are no longer favorable?
- How can we minimize the instances and length of downtime for the buses?
The issues related to the Transport Board are not unique. Many of these queries can apply to various bodies within government.
In light of the recent financial issues that came to the fore, the need for tighter financial and operational controls becomes ever pressing, particularly those raised by the Auditor General, to prevent or minimise instances of wastage in these hard economic times.
*Krystle Howell, CPA, CIA, COSO, ALMI, ACS, aka Mavis, is an Internal Auditor by profession, avid artist and a lover of dance.