CHAIRMAN of Food For the Poor (FFP) Andrew Mahfood has defended the quality of the houses the charity organisation is providing to destitute Jamaicans under its five-year joint agreement with the Jamaican Government.
“The house is a 320-square foot two-bedroom home, with a bathroom, a kitchen, a water tank, a septic tank, solar lighting, and all of that is free. It’s a blessing for somebody to receive a home for free, with what I just described. Yes, there may be some imperfections, but it’s something that we take pride in, delivering a quality home to a recipient who pays nothing. To get a home for $900,000 as a gift; I don’t even see how quality can be an issue in the discussion. We are talking about bathroom, shower, for people who have never had that in their lives,” Mahfood told the Jamaica Observer yesterday, while stressing that FFP hopes to continue the partnership with the Government when the current agreement ends in August this year.
Mahfood was responding to yesterday’s discussions at the Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee of Parliament where some MPs were critical of the quality of the wooden houses being built under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP), which has now been replaced by the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) programme.
The MPs stressed that they were not seeking to discredit FFP, but said they were concerned about value for money, especially in light of an anticipated US$800 increase which the organisation is requesting. This would move the cost per unit from US$6,800 to US$7,200, half of which is borne by the Government.
“I can build any one of those units in my constituency for half the price of what is quoted. My preference would be for those allocations to be given directly to the MP who can use local labour to achieve better results. There has to be some exorbitant architectural fees built into that figure…as far as I know these units are standard units, I really don’t understand it,” St Catherine North East MP Leslie Campbell argued.
St Thomas Western MP Dr Fenton Ferguson commented that “Food for the Poor is a good partner (but) the fact that it is a good partner can’t take away our responsibility as parliamentarians to question whether we are getting value for money”.
The MPs said, too, that they were being left out of the process and suggested that the community could be “roped” into the construction process.