A walking failure: Dissecting JUTC’s damning Auditor General Report

A Route 75 Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) bus leaves the Half Way Tree Transportation Centre in St Andrew. (Photo: Flickr)

The Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) is the latest State-owned entity under scrutiny as the findings from the just-released Auditor General Report are revealed.

Corruption and gross misconduct continue to erode any attempt to push Jamaica forward, a bleak realisation highlighted by the Auditor General’s report on the operations of the JUTC.

Among the many breaches identified, hundreds of millions in missing inventory and more than a billion dollars spent to pay unapproved staff are just the tip of the iceberg being unearthed, leaving social media users feeling much contempt.

Most concerning from the Auditor General’s report was the conclusion that the JUTC failed in every area assessed, including operations management, effective maintenance, effective procurement and inventory management. Even worse, several of the ailing public transportation agency’s top brass do not meet the minimum qualifications required to hold their posts.

These are all red flags and come at a time when nearly a quarter of the JUTC’s fleet of buses is down for repairs.

For a State-owned agency, the situation that has been allowed to manifest throughout the JUTC is unsustainable.

A slap in the face of its workers, the commuters and the wider taxpaying society.

The Auditor General’s report, which reviewed the operations of the JUTC between financial year 2017/18 and financial year 2018/19, shows the company is an embodiment of the Jamaican proverb “everyweh yuh tun makka jook yuh”, bleeding dollars from nearly every angle imaginable.

Further, with some 231,222 litres of fuel being unaccounted for between FY2014/15 and FY2018/19, that’s approximately $36.5 million dollars lost. During the same period, the JUTC has been hit by an 11.6 per cent and 36.5 per cent decline in available bus services and ridership respectively.

JUTC buses in the Half Way Tree Transportation Centre. (Photo: jutc.gov.jm)

Don’t get me started on the incredible confirmation that the JUTC sits on over $178 million in obsolete spare parts while, on average, 16 buses are out of service for 139 days awaiting parts for servicing and/or maintenance.

How, with all these procedural breaches, could this company ever turn a profit? Or be a modern, viable option to meet the transportation needs of the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA) which covers the capital, Portmore and Spanish Town?

“The audit found that JUTC lacked a robust maintenance and inventory management system to facilitate adequate supplies of buses on a timely basis to meet the demand of customers. JUTC invested in costly bus tracking and inventory management systems, which were not adequately utilised, as well as made poor decisions in the selection of buses that were unsuitable for its needs,” Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis wrote in her overview.

“The audit also found weaknesses in JUTC’s governance practices and internal control environment, which were manifested by a lack of financial transparency, breaches of the Human Resource (HR) policy, minimal adherence to Government guidelines, including procurement law and guidelines and limited accountability by JUTC’s leadership. These inefficiencies also worsened the JUTC’s financial position over the period,” she continued.

The findings have led to the JUTC being a trending topic this Wednesday on Twitter as Jamaicans, like myself, dissected the report in shock.

Click here to read the JUTC report, in full.