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Project changes submitted to World Bank

Faced with the possible “partial cancellation” of some of the $70 million loan borrowed from the World Bank to fight HIV and AIDS, Government is asking that financial institution to accept a number of changes to the project.

Minister of Family Stephen Lashley today announced the proposed establishment of a Project Coordination Unit and Project Director to oversee implementation of the programme, which is scheduled to conclude in November next year.

The Christ Church West Central MP, under whose ministry the National HIV AIDS Programme and Second World Bank Government of Barbados HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Project both fall, told the House of Assembly a major reason for the planned changes was to resolve the current “slow spend”.

He was leading off debate on a $9 million supplementary resolution, funds to be used to start a number of projects related to the World Bank partnership and overall HIV and AIDS fight. Most of the money will be allocated between the ministries of Family and Health.

The minister noted that up to the end of September this year almost $23 million, 31.7 per cent of the loan amount was reimbursed to Barbados from the World Bank, which meant Government “must therefore spend and seek reimbursement” for about $49 million before the project ends on November 30, 2013.

He said one of the “key changes” to the project was to “move the procurement and financial management aspects of the project and the monitoring and evaluation … under the supervision of the Permanent Secretary of Investment in the Ministry of Finance and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health”.

“The intent here is to develop a project coordination unit and it is proposed that that project coordination unit will have a project manager and that project manager will be the project director in relation to the World Bank Component,” he said.

“We recognised over the time that the execution of the project ensuring that ministries can pursue and spend under the project require some robust continuous day-to-day management and that is why it is being proposed that there will be a project director now working very closely with all of the line ministries.”

Other proposed changes submitted to the World Bank, included the purchase of a mobile outreach unit under the Ministry of Transport and Works, the integration of HIV programmes in sports, the development of HIV radio and television programmes, and augmentation of Crop-Over activities.

There was also the implementation of social media projects, implementation of the Parliamentarians Advancing Leadership Initiatives, the upgrade of the Barbados Community College’s communication facility, and the rebranding of the national programme with The Fight Is Not Over campaign.”

“So we are looking to put in place not only programmes to ensure that we can increase spend, but programmes designed to ensure that once the World Bank Project comes to an end we can continue to function,” he said.

Lashley also noted that the changes Government was now being forced to make were due largely to the negative fallout from the economic recession.

“The effective management of the financial aspects of the project would have been impacted largely by the economic recession and of course there were certain restraints that we would have placed on certain finances,” he told the Lower House.

“The project was also impacted by the slow spend by some ministries in utilising funds under the project budgeted, and in some instances the non allocation of HIV expenditure to the relevant heads.

“We would have had fewer persons living with HIV than projected in the project appraisal document, we would have had cheaper drugs being sourced through the Clinton Foundation. We would have had also the closure of the Elroy Phillips Centre, which was budgeted in the strategic framework at a cost of US$5.76 million for the duration of the loan and of course we had the decision taken not to execute some activities detailed in the project appraisal document because in fact they were not feasible anymore,” he explained.

The minister said Government was “aware that unless we were to take some action in terms of increasing spend then [there would be] the possibility of a partial cancellation of some of the loan funds”. (SC)

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