GSD raises concerns over street cleaning resources, drawing stern response from Britannia
The GSD has described as "shocking" the fact that public money will be used to pay for new equipment for street cleaning despite a £6m contract having been awarded last June.
In a statement, it questioned why the taxpayer should foot the bill for the new equipment.
But the criticism drew an immediate response from Britannia, the company that handles the cleaning contract.
Britannia said it had won a stringent EU tender process and secured a contract that included the provision by the government of a fleet of vehicles.
The Opposition was reacting after the government said that below-standard cleanliness in some public areas and streets in Gibraltar was largely down to shortfalls in equipment and resources following the transfer of the cleaning contract from Master Service to Britannia Management.
The Gibraltar Government said it was currently purchasing the required fleet and machinery, with water pressure machines, sweepers and vehicles to be made available to staff as soon as possible.
The GSD, which has long campaigned about street cleanliness, said it welcomed that the government had "finally recognised" that the cleaning of streets and public places was "inadequate".
But it was critical of the government's decision to purchase new equipment using public funds.
“Last year Minister Cortes was boasting that the streets of Gibraltar would sparkle after announcing the award of the new cleaning contract to Britannia Ltd," said Trevor Hammond, the GSD's spokesman on the environment.
"Sadly for him we had a dry winter and the lack of rain has quickly exposed the inadequacy of cleaning."
"In response to our press release on the issue of 3rd June, the government replied ‘Gibraltar is much cleaner now than it was at the time of the contract changeover. The programme will be tweaked as necessary in order to make sure that all areas that need cleaning are covered.’ This was only three weeks ago and now the government acknowledge that the streets are not sufficiently clean."
"The government spin has again been exposed for what it is."
Mr Hammond added: “There is no doubt that new equipment is required, many of the vehicles currently in use seem to move around in a cloud of fumes, sucking in dust and redistributing it in a plume."
"However, the government is spending over £6 million a year for street cleaning services and it seems staggering that this contract price, only awarded a year ago, did not include and require a programme of equipment replacement by Britannia."
"It is incredible that the tax payer should also have to bear this cost and that government awarded the contract without considering this."
"It’s another example of individuals and companies winning and profiting from contracts while all the risk and cost is being born by the tax payer."
Last night, Britannia responded to the GSD's concerns and said it had competed for the contract in a stringent EU tender along with three other companies.
The tender conditions and document were clear that the Gibraltar Government assets were to be made available to the successful tenderer, Britannia's managing director, Paul Collado, said.
"It is evident that the Opposition has not obtained factual information on the nature of the tender," tMr Collado said in a statement.
"This could have been requested at the time the process was going on and have raised concerns then, they had sufficient time in which to do this. It would seem very opportunistic to do so now."
Britannia said it had inherited a "depleted and tired" fleet of vehicles.
"We have had to overspend considerably on manpower to be able to do our very best in view of this, and bear in mind we have a fixed contract and not a cost plus 10% as my predecessor was awarded," Mr Collado said.
"The government has, in the latest public statement, explained that once the recent budget had been approved it would commit to invest in new machinery and vehicles."
Britannia said that its predecessor, Master Service, had inherited a brand new fleet of vehicles and that this had been paid by the tax payer.
"This the decision of the government of the day," he said.
"New machinery was added to the fleet, again at the taxpayer's expense, periodically by the government of the day."
It also defended its performance over "a very dry winter" and said that if this had not been up to standard, there would have been more public complaints.
Mr Collado added: "The last paragraph of the GSD statement implies that Britannia, and myself as owner, are taking the taxpayer for a ride and only aim at making profits."
"I am of the view that these comments can be construed as inciteful, intended to influence public opinion against my company, my person and my employees."
"Britannia’s management and workforce have enough on our plate with the acknowledged lack of machinery as well as the highlighted civic pride issues as identified by the knowledgeable Gibraltarian public to have the burden of being used as political pawns."
"We would be grateful if more attention is focused to working together as a community to have a clean Gibraltar."