Fri | Mar 23, 2018

PM, it's time to sort out the UDC

Published:Wednesday | September 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM
UDC General Manager Desmond Malcolm.
UDC Chairman K.D. Knight

A.C. Countz, Guest Columnist

The Urban Develop-ment Corporation (UDC) is one of the largest government-owned companies in Jamaica. It has published no accounts available to the public since March 2011 - more than three years ago.

On June 6, General Manager Desmond Malcolm indicated that the UDC was "awaiting guidance from the Ministry of Finance on how to treat the assets of one of the many subsidiaries". More than three months has since expired and still no later accounts.

Mr Malcolm had claimed that our column of June 4 was an "unfair slap at UDC directors". What does he say now after three more months of failure to produce accounts?

The prime minister, as portfolio minister, needs to step in and get this matter sorted out. This column has apparently not been able to get the Financial Secretary to provide this guidance.

The country's finances cannot be sorted out if enormous parastatals, like the UDC, remain unaccountable to the public for such a long period and accounting issues do not get resolved.

The UDC website, which sets out the company's Corporate Values and Philosophy', declares the following:

The UDC believes in accountability.

We will conduct our business in a transparent manner, while assuming responsibility for our actions and communicating openly and regularly with our clients and stakeholders.

The UDC certainly does not live up to these stated values and should remove those paragraphs.

Is there no one on the board of the UDC demanding accountability? The UDC directors should consider resigning if current accounts are not published very shortly.

People with reputation like the distinguished directors K.D. Knight, John Cooke, Andrew Azar, David Cummings, Marcia Edwards, Derrick Webb, Michael Lewis, Norman Minott, Patrick Peterkin, Clinton Clarke, Pamela Redwood, Jalil Dabdoub Jr, Shalman Scott, Mark Nelson, Lambert Brown, Marsha Francis, Reynold Scott, Sonia Hyman, Robert Martin and Ralston Hyman, should not associate themselves with a situation like this.

This column still hopes there is someone somewhere - Chairman K.D. Knight, Prime Minister Portia Miller, Finance Minister Peter Phillips, Financial Secretary Devon Rowe, the directors of the UDC, GM Desmond Malcolm, Deputy GM Donald Hamilton - who cares enough about accountability to get the UDC to bring its published accounts up to date.

Does the Prime Minister endorse the lack of account-ability, or is her ministry demanding immediate cor-rective action but the UDC is being unresponsive?

Maybe GM Malcolm, who was so quick to defend his directors as a result of an earlier column, would now make a public statement as to when current accounts will be published?

This column plans to review the audited accounts of all the UDC subsidiaries, if and when the UDC sees it of value to respond to the request to supply copies.

PIOJ ought to set better example

The Planning Institute of Jamaica was established in 1984 to initiate and coordinate the economic financial social cultural and physical development of Jamaica.

The PIOJ states that its December 2013 annual report has been completed and submitted to the Ministry of Finance where, presumably, it is stuck on its way to Parliament!

The PIOJ ought to be exemplary in its commitment to accountability. Its CEO must be aware that agencies do not have to wait till accounts are tabled in Parliament before releasing them to the public. Certainly, the multitude of leading academics on the PIOJ board must know this ... but apparently they care not.

The PIOJ, in 2012, reduced its operating costs to $386 million and received a subvention from Government of $402 million, allowing it to show a surplus of $53 million.

Apart from lateness, its accounts are straightforward and appear in good order. Board members received low fees of $7,500 per annum while its director general received a package valued at $12.3 million - not a generous amount for a competent person to run this organisation.

Auditors Deloitte might focus on how to get their account notes to be considerably shorter. The notes waste a lot of paper.

This column reviews the audited and in-house accounts and reports of companies and entities owned or influenced by Government.

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PIOJ Responsible Officials

Minister: Minister: Dr Peter Phillips

Chairman and director general: Colin Bullock

Other directors: Dr Pauline Knight, Prof Brian Meeks , Everton McFarlane, Dr Ike Johnson, Prof Alvin Wint, Dr Joy Moncrieffe, Robert Wynter

Last available accounts: December 2102