Right Steps & Poui Trees


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More On Barbican Square Roadworks, Following An Access to Information Request

Blog pic for Barbican Square Roadworks 2Two weeks ago I wrote a blog post entitled Barbican Square Roadworks: An Example of Government Disregard for People’s Safety. In it I shared photos and thoughts about the safety risks posed to drivers and pedestrians by the ongoing roadwork being done in and around Barbican Square. I indicated that I had made an Access to Information (ATI) request to the National Works Agency (NWA) and promised to share any information I received in response. So, that’s what I am doing today.

I must say, first of all, that I am very pleased with the timely response by NWA. I wish all government bodies responded so quickly!

  • On Friday, March 9, 2018, I submitted by email my request for:
    1. All written regulations/guidelines/protocols/requirements for the provision of warnings/precautions/etc during road work/construction/repairs. This would include, for example, requirements for barriers, warning lights, reflective tape, cones, flag men, etc.
    2. Any requirements specifically for the construction now taking place in and around the Barbican Square area.
  • On Monday, March 12, 2018, I received an acknowledgement of receipt of my request.
  • On Tuesday, March 27, 2018, I received two documents in response to my request.

All of the responses were well within the time frames required under the Access to Information Act.

The Two Documents Received

  1. National Works Agency Temporary Traffic Control Template

NWA Temporary Traffic Control Template July 2015 versionThe document sent in response to the first of my requests is entitled the National Works Agency Temporary Traffic Control Template ; the cover indicates that it was last revised in July 2015. In six sections, it sets out the information that needs to be included when a temporary traffic plan for a project is submitted to the NWA.

An overview of the project is required…NWA template 1. 0 Project Overview

…and a list of “the responsibilities of key personnel involved in the development of the project” (2.0 TPM Team – Roles and Responsibilities). The Work Zone Impact Assessment (3.0) should include details such as the length of the project, whether road closures and detours will be necessary, whether any temporary structures will be needed to facilitate the movement of traffic and pedestrians, an assurance that there will be access for emergency vehicles, whether any utilities will be affected and what the hours of operation will be.

Section 4.0 refers to the traffic control devices to be used and recommends that planners refer to the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices Section 6C. I haven’t yet found reference to a Jamaican document by that name and wonder if the reference is to a US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration document by that name. Section 6C of that document is about Temporary Traffic Control Elements and is certainly relevant. It specifically mentions that the needs of people with disabilities should be taken into consideration, the absence of which was one of my concerns about the situation in the Barbican Square area.NWA template 4.0 highlighted

It is somewhat ironic that the sample template given in the document uses Barbican Road as its fictional project.NWA template 4.0 - sample

Section 5.0 – Project Alterations – requires that if there are any changes to the scope of the project and additional work zones not in the initial Traffic Management Plan are added, the original plan must be resubmitted with all the proposed amendments. Section 6.0 gives a list of relevant terms, and an Appendix is required with all the sign dimensions and diagrams.

2. CHEC Traffic Management Plan for Barbican Road Improvement Project MIDP

The second document I received is entitled Traffic Management Plan for Barbican Road Improvement Project MIDP (Major Infrastructure Development Programme) and is a China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) document dated 28th September, 2017. It is stamped as having been received on September 29, 2017 by NWA Technical Services. CHEC Barbican Traffic Management Plan 28 Sept 2017

It is a six page document (including the cover) divided into three sections: 1. Profile, 2. General idea, 3. Traffic Management Plan. There are four diagrams in the Traffic Management Plan; this is the diagram on page 5.CHEC traffic management plan 28-9-17 p. 5

The details of the diagrams may be easier to understand when you look at the original document, as the images and legend are not very clear in the copy I received. The details of the plan may also be easier to understand if you are familiar with the project as a whole or if you have training and experience relevant to such planning and construction. I, however, come to this issue as a member of the public who had to travel through the area two weeks ago and was appalled by what I saw. And I find it difficult to understand from this document exactly what provisions were being planned to ensure the safety of people who would have to navigate the area by car or on foot.

I can’t easily tell what specific traffic control devices are to be placed where and when. I don’t know what the timeline for the four steps or phases are. I don’t know if the provisions of this plan were in effect or were supposed to be in effect on the two days I went through the area. What I do know is that on the days I drove and walked through, I saw no organised traffic management, one traffic sign in the vicinity of the Square and multiple hazards posing dangerous risks to both pedestrians and drivers.

The traffic management plan makes this statement: “We should set a flag lady on the flag zone to direct the traffic.” On the days I was there, I saw no sign of any flag lady or man directing traffic in any area of the work in the vicinity of the Square.

I don’t know if the NWA thinks that this Traffic Management Plan meets the requirements of the NWA’s Temporary Traffic Control Template. I don’t know if the NWA deems this Traffic Management Plan to be adequate for the scale of work being undertaken in the vicinity of Barbican Square.  I don’t know if it is representative of the plans generally submitted. I don’t know if there is any monitoring done on site to see if provisions laid out in submitted plans are implemented. I don’t know if the NWA has at any point evaluated the safety situation of the work being done for the Barbican Road Improvement Project.

There is a lot that I still don’t know, but there is one thing that I am certain of. The situation I saw on March 8 & 9 was a clear example of Government disregard for people’s safety.

I will be making some more ATI requests and I will share any further documents I receive.

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Barbican Square Roadworks: An Example of Government Disregard for People’s Safety

Whether or not the construction going on in Barbican Square will bring the promised benefits is not the subject of this blog post. What I want to consider is whether the situation I saw last week Thursday night and Friday afternoon is indicative of government that values the safety and well-being of its citizens.

JIS March 2017 release re Barbican roadworksThe Barbican Road Improvement Project has been going on for many months now. This release from Jamaica Information Service (JIS) in March last year described the scope of the planned work and indicated the timeframe for some of the phases. It included the following advice from Manager for Communication and Customer Services at the National Works Agency (NWA), Stephen Shaw:

Mr. Shaw urges persons to exercise caution as they traverse that area.

“There will be difficulties and challenges while the project is ongoing, but it will be for a greater good; and so, we are asking persons to work with us as we work to complete what we are hoping to be a very successful project,” he says.

In the ensuing months, there has been much comment about the ongoing roadworks in both traditional and social media and I have seen numerous photos posted online by fellow blogger Dennis Jones documenting various problems he has seen.

This image from Google maps shows the area and roads involved. East King’s House Road is marked with an arrow and the numbers indicate some points I will mention as I go along.Google map - Barbican Square with numbers

Barbican Square is not a route that I have to use routinely and with the ongoing construction I have consciously avoided the area. So when I had to use the route last Thursday night to access somewhere via Birdsucker Lane, I did so with a sense of unease. I had seen something about the closure of Birdsucker Lane, but had paid little attention to the timeline for it and wondered if it was still closed. I assumed that if it were, there would be some signs indicating the appropriate detour. I discovered that Birdsucker was open, but the absence of any proper signage or safety precautions was appalling. When I eventually reached home, I tweeted about the experience.Barbican tweet - 8-3-18

I approached the area via the East Kings’s House Road route, joined the usual lines of traffic going past Loshusan plaza, taking the right lane, as I normally would to head for Birdsucker. I saw a police car parked across the road from the exit (at 2 on map) from the plaza, obviously trying to discourage the usual boring that takes place just before the concrete median barriers at that point. There were no signs at the intersection of the roundabout road with Barbican Road (at 3 on map). In fact, I saw no signs directing traffic at any point in the roundabout area that night.Barbican tweet - 8-3-18 - 2Barbican tweet - 8-3-18 - 3The situation I mentioned in tweet #3 was along the stretch labeled 6 on the map.Barbican tweet - 8-3-18 - 4The woman with the small child I mentioned in tweet #4 was approaching the Jack’s Hill intersection, coming from the direction of the Square.Barbican tweet - 8-3-18 - 5

I was really troubled by my experience on Thursday night and wanted to see what the situation looked like during daylight, so I went back on Friday afternoon and spent about an hour walking around the area. What I saw confirmed my impression that there is a disregard for the safety of those who have to traverse the area either by car or on foot.

Along the stretch labeled 6 on the map, there were some barriers in evidence where an excavator and some men were working. However, further along the stretch there was nothing marking the edge of the trench being dug, to highlight the danger for motorists.

There were no signs to direct traffic flow at the intersections of Barbican Road with the roundabout road (3 on the map), with Birdsucker Lane (4 on the map) or East King’s House Road (5 on the map). There seemed to be a reliance on a few barriers and luck.

The only sign I saw directing traffic flow in the area of the Square was on East King’s House Road, near the Losushan traffic lights. And even that wasn’t very clearly placed. And nowhere did I see any flag men or women helping to guide drivers.Barbican Square - Losushan traffic light - 9-3-18 The hazards to pedestrians were many….uneven surfaces, with exposed unfinished construction and holes…

…sidewalks under construction which end abruptly and have uncovered holes, with no attempt to place warnings for pedestrians…

…protruding steel, with no covering and nothing to warn of its presence…

…a drain hole in a sidewalk, with a makeshift and inadequate covering.

The dangers are bad enough during the day, but imagine the additional risks at night and the additional risks to someone who is blind or who has a mobility impairment.

The government has a duty to protect people when construction is taking place on the public thoroughfares. Are there regulations, protocols, guidelines, standards governing such safety measures to protect users of the spaces during such construction? If so, what are those guidelines? Are they being met? Are they included in contracts being issued? What are the monitoring responsibilities of the NWA? Is the NWA satisfied with the safety provisions in Barbican Square roadworks?

These issues have been raised before, quite recently with an accident on Mandela Highway in which lives were lost. New roadworks have begun in Constant Spring and are promised for Hagley Park Road. But clear answers do not seem to be readily forthcoming. On Friday morning I made an Access to Information request to the NWA for “written regulations/guidelines/protocols/requirements for the provision of warnings/ precautions/etc during road work/construction/repairs.” Today I had an acknowledgement of my request. I will share any information I receive.

The JIS report I mentioned earlier stated that “Mr. Shaw urges persons to exercise caution as they traverse that area.” I would hope that Mr Shaw also urges the public officials at the NWA and other responsible government departments to exercise their duty to protect people’s safety as they traverse the area.


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JCF Body-Worn Cameras Policy & Procedures: An Access to Information Request Granted

In September 2017, I made an Access to Information (ATI) request for

“copies of any protocols, procedures, guidelines, etc governing the use of body-worn cameras by members of the JCF. I am interested in copies of any such documents that are currently in force or have been used at any time in the past.”

I initially submitted the request to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) directly and it was subsequently transferred to the Ministry of National Security, which is where I am told it ought to have been submitted in the first place. After much back and forth and delay, and with the assistance of the ATI Unit, today I received a copy of the JCF’s Policy & Procedures on Body-Worn Cameras. The cover of the document indicates that it was developed in November 2017 & disseminated as an Appendix to the JCF Force Orders No. 3675, dated November 9, 2017. (These dates may indicate in part the reason for the delay in response to my ATI request made in September 2017.)JCF Body Cameras Policy & Procedures coverClick here to access a copy of the document: JCF Policy & Procedures on Body-Worn Cameras Nov 2017

I have had a chance to do only a quick read through the document, which does not seem to be  sufficiently detailed and specific on first reading. There also seem to be a number of gaps, with some significant issues left unaddressed. I’ll obviously consider it more closely when I read through it again, but in the meantime, what do you think? I have repeatedly said, “If the public doesn’t know what the protocols and procedures are, how can we know if they are adequate?” So here they are. Are they adequate?

Two other questions:

Related blog posts

INDECOM Reports 8 Fatal Shootings in the Past Week: Any Body Worn Camera-Footage?

Body-Worn Cameras: A Secret Transparency Tool?

No Protocols, No Body-Worn Cameras: INDECOM’s Comments

350 Words or Less: Police Using Body-Cameras, But What Protocol Is Regulating Their Use

 


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Crimes Committed by People on Bail: An Access to Information Story

Jamaica’s Access to Information (ATI) Act was passed in 2002 and I believe, despite some of the weaknesses which remain in its provisions, it is an extremely important and potentially powerful tool for members of the public.

The following objectives are stated in the legislation:ati-act-objectives

In addition to some problems with the legislation itself, there can be challenges to getting the requested information. Sometimes use of the Act goes smoothly; sometimes it does not. Here’s a recent and still ongoing experience of mine.

June 17, 2016

minister-montagueI heard a radio news report  about a speech that the Minister of National Security Robert Montague had given at a function the day before, in which he had made comments about people committing crimes while on bail and the need to make changes to the Bail Act because of this.

By email, I made the following request to the Ministry of National Security (MNS) under the provisions of the ATI Act:

I would like to make an ATI request for all data, reports, memos, correspondence, minutes, etc regarding people on bail who have allegedly committed further offences while on bail.

I heard Minister Montague on a clip on the news today giving some figures at an event yesterday, which I hope would be included in the information I am requesting.

I received this response from MNS:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your Access to Information Request, which will be processed and dealt with accordingly.

I heard nothing further for two months.

 August 18, 2016

I received an email from MNS:

I am hereby making the request for an extension of time to supply information regarding your requests, the request was dispatched for the attention of the respective party that would probably have such information in their possession. However, the information has not yet been provided to this office. Thank you

September 6, 2016

I sent the following response to MNS:

I note your request for an extension of time in providing the information I requested on June 17. However, given that this request was made 60 days since I made my request, I will be referring this to the Appeal Tribunal. 
I also note that no valid reason has been given for this delay.
That same day, I filed a request for an appeal before the ATI Appeal Tribunal.

September 9, 2016

I received the following from MNS:

This is to inform that your request was forwarded to the appropriate personnel/department to supply information with regards to your request. However, the information that you desire does not rest with this office and as such we do not have direct control for when the information is supplied in most instances. I regret the delay, however the information if available, will be forwarded as soon as it is obtained, thank you.

I replied to MNS:

If the information is not held by the Ministry of National Security, then my request ought to have been transferred to the relevant government ministry/agency and I should have been notified of that transfer. I haven’t been. If the information is held by the Ministry of National Security, in whichever office or section, the requirements of the ATI Act would apply.
I have made a request to the ATI Tribunal for an appeal regarding the Ministry’s failure to provide the information.

October 14, 2016

Following some intervention by the ATI Unit, I received the following email from MNS with a document attached:

Please find attached the information that was requested Re: “Persons on Bail Committing Additional Offences”. Apologies are extended for the delay in the conveying of this response.

jcf-bail-doc-coverA copy of the document (Jamaica Constabulary Force – Assessment – Impact on Serious Crimes by Persons on Bail – June 28, 2016) is availble here: jcf-assessment-on-serious-crimes-by-persons-on-bail-28-06-16

I sent the following response to MNS:

Thank you for your email and the attached document.
I am not satisfied, however, that this fulfills my request made on June 17, 2016 for:
“all data, reports, memos, correspondence, minutes, etc regarding people on bail who have allegedly committed further offences while on bail”
to which I added the following identifier:
“I heard Minister Montague on a clip on the news today giving some figures at an event yesterday, which I hope would be included in the information I am requesting.”
 
The single document provided is a JCF report dated June 28, 2016. Since this is subsequent to the date of my request and the date on which the Minister made his public statement, I must assume that further documentation resides with the Ministry of National Security.
If indeed it is the Ministry’s position that it holds no other “data, reports, memos, correspondence, minutes, etc” as per my request, then I would appreciate a definitive statement of this.

October 21, 2016

I have not yet had a response from MNS to my email sent on October 14 and my request before the Appeal Tribunal remains in place.

Restricting Bail Provisions & the Document Provided by MNS

The issue of passing or amending legislation to restrict access to bail beyond existing provisions is not a new one. Among the six anti-crime bills passed in 2010 were two amendments to the Bail Act, which were subsequently challenged in court and in 2011 were ruled unconstitutional and therefore void. (Nation, Adrian v The Director of Public Prosecutions and The Attorney General of Jamaica)

The issue was again raised this year when Prime Minister Andrew Holness stated the Government’s intention to amend the Bail Act during his Budget Debate presentation in Parliament on May 24. ag-mmf-5-7-16Minister Montague made his speech on June 16 (Jamaica Observer, 16/6/16)  and public discussion further intensified following Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte’s Sectoral Debate presentation on July 5, in which she stated

So, Mr Speaker, we are going to touch the Bail Act, again….We are going to make some radical changes. Right now, the sentiment is one of “no bail for murder, unless self defence arises on the Crown’s case and the likelihood of an acquittal is high’.

So four months after I began my ATI quest to get documents from the Ministry of National Security giving information about people on bail who have committed further offences while on bail – documents which might empirically ground the Government’s declared intention to amend the Bail Act – I have received one document, a six-page assessment by the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Only 3 of those pages deal with crimes committed by people on bail, and the information given is of a fairly cursory nature.

If this is the only document MNS has which deals with this topic, then it is frightening to think that this is what is being used to support a decision to amend the Bail Act.

If there are other documents held by MNS – or any other Ministry or public authority – then the MNS has failed in its duty to comply with the provisions of the Access to Information Act.

I await further communication from MNS or the hearing of my requested appeal before the ATI Appeal Tribunal to discover which of these two bleak possibilities is the case.

 


Ministry of Health Jamaica: 6 weeks of #zika numbers

On July 5, the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Jamaica began posting updates on its website regarding the number of zika cases. The first update was for data as of June 25, 2016 and since then the MOH has posted a further 6 updates, the most recent of which was posted on August 8 and contained the numbers up to August 5, 2016. All 7 updates are currently available on the MOH website, but for easy review I have included the chart below:

MOH zika updates June 25 - August 5 2016

One of the questions which remains for me is why there have been so few confirmed cases, given the steadily increasing numbers of reported and suspected cases. It would be useful for the MOH to publish data regarding the number of samples submitted for testing, the number of tests completed and the outcomes of these tests.

It would also be useful for the MOH to make public any reports on any problems being experienced with the testing that has been and is being done. I had asked some time ago, for example, about a doctor’s comment on having heard from two sources that a lack of a reagent had been hampering the testing of samples.

Sloper on FB

Dr Tufton had said via Twitter that he would check on that report. I haven’t heard an update from Dr Tufton on that reported lack of reagent, but it is entirely possible that I missed his update.

I heard CMO Dr De La Haye saying on a radio programme this morning (Nationwide News Network) that routine testing of all pregnant women could cost as much as J$100 million. If such an expenditure is being contemplated, it would be good to have an assurance that the process would be reliable.

The zika outbreak and its impacts continue to unfold, and the provision of information continues to be an important aspect of the government response.

 


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350 Words or Less: Classifying the Ministry of National Security Budget

Last week (July 7) at a post-sectoral debate press briefing, Minister of National Security Robert Montague said that he intends to have his ministry’sbudget classified, thus making it unavailable publicly.The reason given for this is to prevent information within the budget being used by people with criminal intentions.Montague press conference 7-7-16 (2)

“The era of announcing details of our security programmes is over. And it is over to the extent that I am bringing a submission to Cabinet seeking to remove the National Security budget from the printed information within the national budget. And the reason for it, we have seen on our website a lot of traffic from countries and from organizations that we too have an interest in, trying to find out the size of the budget and what you spending on. And it is an intelligence gathering. We are providing those who wish to cause mayhem with vital information and this ministry is trying to cease and desist.” – Minister of National Security, Robert Montague (Transcribed from recording of Nationwide News Network newscast July 7, 2016)

The Minister says he will be taking this proposal to Cabinet, where I hope it will be reconsidered.

Openness and transparency are important and prized characteristics of governance in a modern democracy. I cannot in that context see any reason to justify the blanket withholding of the entire budget of the Ministry of National Security from public access. The majority of that budget couldn’t possibly pose any risk to national security by being in the public arena. Pages like this, for example:MNS Budget 2016-2017 - sample page

If there were a genuine and substantiated risk posed by public access to any particular items within the budget, the appropriate approach could only be to redact specific, limited items.

Does the level of information given in the budget reach the kind of operational detail that would provide useful information for criminal organizations? Page after page of the document that I looked at could never justifiably be exempt from public access. You can have a look at the budget now posted on the Ministry of Finance’s website – Estimates of Expenditure 2016-2017 – and see what you think.

MNS Budget 2016-2017 - 1st page

 

 


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Jamaica: #Zika Update…On the Ministry of Health Website, No Less!

Christopher-Tufton-WebListening to the news at midday today, I heard a report of an update given by Minister of Health Christopher Tufton about the current situation with the zika virus here in Jamaica. As the news report was read, I madly tried to scribble down the figures being given…number of reported, suspected and confirmed cases, etc. I was particularly interested in the number of pregnant women reported with suspected cases of zika. I thought I heard 88, and began to comb the news sites online and on social media to see if I could track down the figure. No luck. I was about to send Minister Tufton a tweet or to call Power 106 to see if I could speak with someone in their news room.

And then I decided to check the Ministry of Health website, though I had little hope of finding any current figures there, based on past experience.

Eureka! Look what I found! A downloadable, written document entitled “Zika update as at June 25, 2016“, posted on the website today, July 5, 2016! Hallelujah!MOH zika update 25-6-16

 

Seriously though, this is a significant development in keeping the public informed, that on the same day the Minister gives an update to the media, a document containing the figures is posted on the MOH website. I sincerely hope that this is the beginning of a trend.

The full document (3 pages long) is available on the website and I have included it here: MOH Zika-update-of-as-at-June-25

Of particular note are the general update regarding number of cases, with 24 confirmed cases as of June 25, 2016:

MOH zika cases 25-6-16

and the number of pregnant women with suspected cases of zika:

MOH zika and pregnancy 24-6-16

Providing reliable, easily accessible official information to the public on a regular basis is essential during a public health situation such as this.