Jamaica Observer: LLANDILO, Westmoreland — Just over four years after the first steps were taken to build a new, state-of-the-art, police divisional headquarters in Westmoreland, ground was finally broken last Friday, having been delayed by what National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang said was a corrupted procurement process.

“Getting this done was a challenge. The whole procurement process was tedious. I came to Sav [Savanna-la-Mar] in June of 2018. We started some planning and by October 2019 we were moving to start the process to procure the Westmoreland headquarters,” Dr Chang said at the ground-breaking ceremony for the long-awaited $2.7-billion facility in Llandilo.

“The procurement fell apart for a number of reasons… the process became corrupted,” he said, adding that, that led to an investigation by the Integrity Commission. “We had to put it back out to tender. So it took us time to get here.”

Over the past few years the Government has implemented measures to strengthen the public procurement process in an effort to improve transparency and efficiency. However, in recent times Government and Opposition legislators have complained that the system is fraught with bureaucracy and is affecting their ability to deliver projects and services to citizens on a timely basis.

Dr Chang spoke to that on Friday, saying that the Government is trying to address the issues.

Meanwhile, he said the Government is continuing its push to provide the police force with quality facilities and pointed out that $12 billion has been committed this year for construction work within the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

He had high commendation for M&M Jamaica Limited, the project contractor, saying that he is confident that the project will be delivered on time and within budget.

The Westmoreland Municipal Corporation also came in for commendation for the role it played in the project approval and oversight.

Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar Danree Delancy, who spoke before Dr Chang, warned residents that extortion on the construction site will not be tolerated.

“I don’t want to hear any talk about material going missing and any attempts of extortion. I don’t want to hear any talks about disruption of any sort during the lifetime of this project,” said Delancy.

“I want to hear good reports and that the project is running smoothly. I want to hear that the project was completed within time and within budget. I don’t want to hear anything about cost overrun and all of that,” added the mayor, who said that on completion of the facility morale in the JCF will be boosted.

Deputy managing director of M&M Jamaica, Richard Mullings, argued that the public deserves value for money.

“Those accessing public funds must deliver in spite of all obstacles and challenges. Valuable performance must be considered above affiliation. Valuable performance must be the basis for the awarding of public contracts to spend the public’s money. I say that because M&M Jamaica is guided by principles of value,” stated Mullings, who added that the company will be continuing its community outreach programmes.

He said the company is committed to providing 10 bursaries for high school students for five years, two university scholarships for students up to four years, seed funding for a revolving loan programme for entrepreneurs, and a commitment to engage no fewer than eight university or HEART/NSTA Trust students as interns for the duration of the project.

“That commitment stands, whether we make money or not. It is regardless of our financial performance. That commitment is based on the commitment we expect from the community to us. It is reciprocation in advance,” Mullings said.

Each speaker noted that the current ancient building in the town of Savanna-la-Mar, which hosts a police station and the divisional headquarters, is extremely limited in space and is in an advanced state of disrepair. The building is being replaced under a memorandum of understanding with the National Housing Trust.

Chief technical director in the Ministry of National Security Delroy Simpson, who is the accounting officer, said the new three-storey building will be purpose-built to accommodate advanced technology solutions while hosting various departments that will be staffed by 300 people.

The duration of the construction is 30 months, starting March 15, 2024.

Outgoing Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson said the men and women of the force in Westmoreland have produced outstanding outcomes despite limitations.

Police statistics show that last year the parish recorded more than 100 murders, an 18.7 percent reduction when compared to the corresponding period in 2022.