Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | November 12, 2012
Home : Commentary
Save jobs, emulate JCF Conservation Unit
By Garth A. Rattray

This is the first of a two-part series.

The catastrophic global recession and our critical need to comply with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stipulation of reducing public-sector spending (including, perhaps, reducing the public-sector workforce), has made it imperative that we conserve to save money and jobs.

Unfortunately, many public-sector employees erroneously believe that 'the Government' can always find money from 'somewhere' to replenish depleted resources, pay salaries and provide a solid and long-term retirement plan for them.

Although public-sector employment long ago lost its prestige, many individuals fall back on the civil service when private-sector jobs are scarce or tenuous. Positions are fairly secure, vacation leave is easier to accumulate, study leave is facilitated, departmental days off are the norm, blatant and covert shirking is easier to get away with, and there is some modicum of status and power.

An undetermined number of public-sector employees harbour the sort of mentality that believes in putting out minimum effort and refer to their job as 'the government work'. That cohort is also generally wasteful or turns a blind eye to waste. However, that same 'don't-care' attitude would never be entertained if their hard-earned money were paying the bills.

Practices like unregulated fuel spending, leaky pipes, doors ajar to air-conditioned rooms and inefficient heat-exchanging units waste revenue. Perhaps a good motivating slogan for conservation could be 'The job that you save may be your own'.

I was, therefore, very pleased and intrigued when Inspector of Police Carodean Samuels proudly explained that she was part of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Conservation Unit, headed by chief conservation officer, Assistant Commissioner of Police Leon Rose. The team also includes constables Janice Spicer, Leonie Morris and Tadgy Kiffin. Their effort and determination has saved 'the Government' (taxpayers) many millions of dollars over only a few months.

Conservation within the JCF goes back to as far as 1980, but interest waned over the years. There was a rebirth of sorts in 2002 (when the JCF became responsible for its recurrent budget). After that, conservation measures were published in the Force Orders intermittently. The JCF conservation renaissance (to improve management efficiency and resource utilisation) aligns itself well with the National Energy Conservation and Efficiency Policy (2009 -2030) and Item 10 of the National Development Plan. Ministry circular #30 (dated September 27, 2010) requires that all government agencies appoint a utility officer to organise and initiate energy-conservation measures.

Study and analysis

Spurred on by its mandate to perform, the JCF Conservation Unit assiduously set about planning to methodically conserve expenditure in the areas of fuel, telephone, water and electricity. The unit embarked on a baseline study of the existing infrastructure and practices. Then it performed a strength, weakness/ limitations, opportunities and threats analysis, sometimes referred to as a SWOT matrix, of the existing programme. It reviewed Douglas Orane's task force reports on Waste in the Public Sector - 1999, and the Jamaica Constabulary Force task force study on Management and Control of Force Vehicles -1990s.

The Conservation Unit interfaced with JCF service providers - the Jamaica Public Service Company, Manufacturers Credit and Information Services, LIME and the National Water Commission - and identified weaknesses in the existing system. Then it set about frugal and fastidious fleet (vehicular) management - from the acquisition of parts to fuel accountability and efficiency.

The unit took on the audacious and unenviable task of educating personnel, training and sensitising conservation officers, developing and enforcing waste-reduction policies and standard operating procedures, auditing utility accounts, removing GCT from JCF electricity bills, getting tariff rate adjustment on electricity where necessary, implementing conservation measures regarding utilities, and a leak-detection exercise.

Next week: More on JCF successes and the National Energy Policy of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.

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