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Former UDC head blasts Auditor General's Department

Published:Wednesday | November 5, 2014 | 11:00 AMEdmond Campbell

URBAN PLANNER and former head of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), Joy Douglas, has hammered the Auditor General's Department for failing to carry out critical aspects of its constitutional mandate, charging that the oversight body has made some glaring omissions in a performance audit of the UDC in 2012.

Declaring that she was not picking a fight with Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis, the former UDC boss yesterday slammed the oversight body for not making a single comment on the failed Kingston City Centre Improvement Company (KCCIC) and the Port Royal Development Company (PRDC), both public-private sector initiatives involving the UDC, in a performance audit of the corporation.

Douglas said it was odd that the auditor general did not provide an explanation of the "hundreds of millions of taxpayer money" spent on the PRDC.

NOT LOOKING FOR FUSS

"I really don't want to have a running battle with anybody, but facts are facts," she told members of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee in Gordon House.

"We are in a fiscal account-ability framework with the IMF (International Monetary Fund). As far as I am concerned, that's the responsibility of the auditor general. The auditor general is the one [who is] supposed to keep the nation's feet to the fire in terms of fiscal accountability," the former UDC head said.

"I do not believe - based on the Constitution that I have read - that the auditor general is not required to criticise the Ministry of Finance and the governance of the country, if necessary, and in that regard I do believe that the auditor general, as a matter of principle and having responsibility as per the Constitution, should, in fact, have commented on this whole matter of the prioritisations of projects, the budgeting process that takes place within the Government, and why it would affect any entity including the UDC," she added.

The KCCIC was established in 2002 to lead the redevelop-ment of the downtown business district, while the PRDC was set up to develop Port Royal as a heritage-tourism attraction and cruise-ship port.

The PAC granted Douglas permission to comment on the auditor general's report which had highlighted a number of corporate governance failures, financial challenges and internal control deficiencies that impaired the UDC's ability to manage effectively and efficiently the resources under its control.

Douglas resigned as general manager in 2011 as the entity was plunged in the spotlight following the controversial sale of UDC properties.

"If the auditor general is doing a performance audit - surely entities that have taken hundreds of millions of taxpayer money in the form of KCCIC and Port Royal Development Company - I really would find it very strange that an explanation could come from the auditor general that these are not significant enough to warrant comment on in a performance audit of the UDC," she asserted.

She said the PRDC was referred to the auditor general by the board of the UDC for determination of value for money.

According to Douglas, the country has a right to know what was the fate of the PRDC and why both private-public sector ventures collapsed and what lessons could be learnt going forward.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com