Guyana appears to be not the only CARICOM country where the costs associated with repairing police vehicles are damaged and disabled due to accidents – many of which are due to reckless driving or mechanical faults due to drivers’ road handling skills – continues to impose and considerable strain on the public purse.
In a report by the Trinidad Guardian last week, details of the state debt amount were provided to various garages and repair shops nationwide arising from the costs associated with repairing vehicles used by the T&T Police. The amounts owed to various private repair shops for repairing damaged or defective police vehicles reportedly amount to TT $ 40 million. The debt, says a T&T media report, has been spread across more than twenty garages and repair shops, forcing them to close their doors over the past six weeks and pushing more than 100 people on the breadline.
Recognizing that information relating to what it costs taxpayers to keep police vehicles in service is unlikely to come from functional officers who may have such data available to them, the Stabroek Business sought assistance two police officers driving police vehicles, to talk ‘off the record’ about the local situation.
During separate talks, they both confirmed, as is the case in Trinidad and Tobago, that Guyana Police uses nationwide workshops to render and repair its vehicles, a logistical consideration related to the dispersed nature of the organization.
Although neither of our two informants could even remotely provide an estimate of the costs involved in repairing and rendering vehicles belonging to the GPF, both agreed that it would be fair to say that those costs run into the “millions.” What they both also agreed on, however, was that there were cases where privately operated service facilities would be required to wait indefinitely to pay.
Interestingly, the overriding concern of the report emanating from Trinidad and Tobago relates to the impact of those significant debts outstanding to date on the well-being of mechanical recovery and private body owners who are squeezed into rendering the faulty and faulty vehicles and probably have to ‘grind it up’ until the police pay up.
The GPF doesn’t usually tend to wash what can be described as its dirty linen in public, but there were a few mechanics and bodybuilders here, who have worked in the police rendering or repairing vehicles defective or damaged ready to share their experiences with us. Their responses, in summary, were “Yes, we have worked on police vehicles, yes, there are times when payments have taken a while but these jobs bring in good money.”
Here in Guyana, accidents and consequential damage to police vehicles often arise from emergency response circumstances where drivers may be prone to wind warning.
In October, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill used a local road safety forum to highlight what he described as “how many emergency vehicles … such as ambulances, fire vehicles and police” are still involved in accidents. These accidents, one of our two police informants told us, often result in ‘write-offs’ of vehicles, which effectively means that vehicles involved in such accidents are damaged outside beyond repair. This circumstance, he explained, accounts for the frequent presence in some police station compounds of police vehicles that appear to have been left after being seriously damaged in road accidents. A horrific accident commission in October 2019 involving a police car and another vehicle at Friendship on East Bank Demerara and claimed the lives of five people, concluded that the speeding police car about the accident.
Although loss of life and injury tends, understandably, to be the focus of attention when such accidents do occur, in the final analysis repair and elimination costs cannot be ignored. In November 2018 the GPF inspected a large fleet of vehicles donated to Guyana by the Chinese Government a year earlier. Although the headline in a subsequent story in the Stabroek News stated that the fleet was “in order,” our police informants told the Stabroek Business that some of the vehicles had been in accidents within weeks of being transferred.
There is a widespread view here in Guyana that drivers of police vehicles are not among the most considered drivers in the country and reports of accidents involving such vehicles usually come with details such as vehicles crashing into bridges and off-roading, among other accounts, suggesting that speed and impulsivity may be high on the list of causes of these accidents.
In fact, Stabroek Business did not bother to seek a similar figure from the GPF for the annual cost to the public treasury associated with police vehicles damaged (or destroyed) in accidents. Dead donations in terms of the toll it takes can be seen in the number of seriously damaged vehicles ‘stashed’ for long periods of time at the site of various police stations.
People are talking, though, and we were able to get something out of a city repair shop owner – who, thankfully, is different from their peer repair shops in Port-Spain, very much in business. Unsurprisingly, it is not a matter for the police to be treated as what the Shop owner calls an “ordinary customer”. Sometimes, the damage is done, the repairs are done and that’s just about the end.
In Trinidad and Tobago, where reports show that authorities have been somewhat more forthcoming with information, the impact of the reduced ability of private service shops to operate effectively appears to have resulted in hundreds of police vehicles leave them inactive, lying both. at police station yards and in private repair yards nationwide. The article featured in this newspaper that addresses the state of debt lists various amounts owed to various spare parts traders and service outlets amounting to tens of millions of dollars. T&T Police is reportedly owed TT $ 154 million for repairing vehicles, parts and services.