NCB splits $33.5m donation between JLP, PNP
The National Commercial Bank of Jamaica (NCB) has defended its decision to make political contributions to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP) in to the lead-up to the general election last month.
The bank said it would also consider, upon request, further donations for the pending local government elections.
NCB offered one of the largest disclosed contributions from a private-sector entity based on reports so far. The bank, however, described its political contribution as nothing unusual.
"It is typical for political parties to approach organisations for political contributions. So there is certainly nothing unusual about that. Yes, there were requests made, as they typically are when elections are being held," said Dave Garcia, an attorney
and NCB company secretary, in response to queries from shareholder Christopher Lue at the annual general meeting at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston last week.
The group reportedly contributed $33.5 million, shared equally between what is now the governing JLP and the parliamentary Opposition PNP.
Garcia explained that the decision to contribute was made by the "executive committee of the board" and the funds were disbursed in February, the same month the general election was held.
Lue then added: "Due to the fact that we know that local government elections are due this year and probably in June, ... if the group is again approached, I wonder what you would do this time."
Garcia responded: "Any request will receive appropriate consideration in the same manner in which requests have been considered over the last several years. It is not the first time that NCB has made contributions and we proceed on to the principle that we will give equally to the political parties that put forward a full slate of candidates."
10 PREVIOUSLY DISCLOSED
Ten private-sector entities thus far disclosed that they contributed a combined total of more than $144 million to the two major parties in the lead-up to the February 25 general election.
NCB expects a "challenging but very rewarding" year ahead, and already earned $2.39 billion in net profit in its December 2015 first quarter, or 12.3 per cent higher year-on-year because of higher operating revenues. The gains came despite only posting higher profit in three of its seven segments.
Proven Management Limited disclosed that it had given the PNP and JLP a total of US$50,000, about J$7 million.
Chief Executive Officer of Proven Christopher Williams was reported as saying that 60 per cent of that amount went to the then governing PNP and 40 per cent to the JLP.
Williams had expressed disappointment that other entities were not as forthcoming, as he said that the best way to support the democratic process was to be transparent regarding how much money has been donated.
"I think the basis on which we support the democratic process is through transparent contributions, and that's what we are doing, especially given the fact that we are a publicly listed company. It is important for us to demonstrate transparency at all times," he said.
Wisynco also reportedly disclosed that it had contributed to the political parties. Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mahfood declined to state the amount.
He said the company would make the disclosure to the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), which would send it to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica.
Sagicor and GraceKennedy also said they would disclose through the PSOJ.
The disclosure of political donations was expected to be mandatory before the island next stages a general election, with the passage of a campaign-finance bill.