Sat | Dec 10, 2016

Douglas must go - Zacca

Published:Wednesday | December 3, 2014 | 12:00 AM
ZACCA

Easton Douglas needs to be separated from the chairmanship of the National Housing Trust (NHT) for the good of the country, says Christopher Zacca, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ).

Additionally, Zacca declared in a column submitted to The Gleaner yesterday that the Ministry of Finance and Planning and a new NHT chairman must immediately begin the task of strengthening the reporting and oversight relationship among the entity, its portfolio minister, and the Parliament.

"I am convinced Easton Douglas and his defenders are just not aligned with the new framework governing public management in Jamaica. Their noisy talk of 'we did nothing wrong and broke no laws' and that 'the NHT has never reported expenditures of this nature to its portfolio minister in over 38 years' misses the core principle of this new PFJ (Partnership For Jamaica) covenant. It is not about the technicality of whether laws were broken or what was past practice under failed public finance management para-digms," the PSOJ president said.

"Instead, it is about whether the NHT's actions were consistent with the PFJ covenant governing the collaborative partnership between [the] Government and stakeholders in Jamaica's future, who have been asked to make enormous sacrifices. It is about whether these actions satisfied the moral standard of the AG's (Auditor General's) 1999 demand on agencies of government that people grudgingly forgo their income in the form of taxes - and make no bones about it, NHT, HEART and NIS (National Insurance Scheme) deductions are involuntary taxes on income."

CALLS FOR SACKING IGNORED

Zacca's pronouncement comes on the heels of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller's decision to disregard widespread calls for the sacking of Douglas and the NHT board in the continuing NHT-Outameni Experience saga.

The prime minister, instead, appointed new board members to strengthen the existing board, following the resignation of three members over the controversy stemming from NHT's spending $180 million to purchase the property on which the Outameni Experience attraction sits in Trelawny.

In the column, Zacca highlighted that in 2000, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson had to separate Douglas from his ministerial portfolio of environment and housing, "and probably for the good of the country. I have now come to the strong view that Prime Minister Simpson Miller needs to do the same in regard to his NHT board position in order to restore confidence in the NHT and to bring it in line with the requirements of the new covenant".

See full text of Zacca's column PM Should Send Easton Douglas Packing