REPRESENTATIVES of the Ministry of Works were grilled by members of a joint select committee on Parliament on land and physical infrastructure on Wednesday, especially as it relates to the Secondary Road Rehabilitation and Improvement Company Ltd.
The meeting was held virtually and was an inquiry into the efficiency of road repairs, land slippages and landslides in TT.
It was chaired by Independent senator Deoroop Teemal.
Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal noted that the company was initially under the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government but has since been moved to the Works Ministry.
However, she said there is not a lot of information about it in the public domain, especially as it relates to the company's mandate and purpose.
The company's chairman, Herbert George, said the company's purpose is to assist with the maintenance of the road network – particularly secondary roads – with a focus on infrasructure, road repairs and rehabilitation, upgrades as well as drainage.
Sagramsingh-Sooklal said she has heard the company referred to as "the pothole company," and George said it is more than that.
The company's purview was officially shifted to the Works Ministry on March 13.
Since then, George said, the company has restored an impassable road which is used to access the Brasso Venado Government Primary School.
But other than that, he said they are "building out" the company.
Princes Town MP and committee member Barry Padarath said there was a similar issue at the Robert Village Hindu School, but his pleas "fell on deaf ears.
"There was no response coming from the Ministry of Works and Transport, there was no assistance coming from the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government, and the only avenues that we have as elected MPs is to go to the Parliament and ask a question."
And when questions are asked there, Padarath said all he is told is that certain roads do not fall under the ministry's purview but the relevant regional corporation.
He questioned what the policy is for dealing with things like this, adding that regional corporations cannot handle "mega projects" like those.
He said often, projects are left to languish for years.
"The football is being kicked from one entity to another," he said, adding that it is a "complete waste of time."
Permanent secretary of the Works Ministry Sonia Francis-Yearwood said Padarath spoke of the angst being experienced by the public.
But she said policies on landslips or roadway repairs identified for implementation are "based on the entity and the type of work to be done."
Teemal asked if the ministry, within its budget, has allocations for emergencies.
Francis-Yearwood said no but that it had been requested in the past. Instead, they "reallocate funds from within."
Padarath later asked how many projects, if any, the secondary road company has completed since its inception.
He said many letters have been sent to the ministry outlining roads that are in need of repair and wondered where the data went.
"Where has that data gone...How many projects have you completed? It's been a year!"
George assured Padarath that no data has been lost and that the company provides an "additional bandwidth to deal with those projects."
He said the company has completed about eight projects so far.
He added that $100 million was made available to the company to "build it out" as well as do repairs, and that the remaining $200 million will soon be given.
Representatives from the ministry also assured committee members that the role of its PURE (Programme For Upgrading Roads Efficiency) unit will not be reduced.