Tue | May 30, 2017

EU concerned about loans to ministry officials under Cane Expansion Fund

Published:Friday | September 11, 2015 | 9:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Baguena

A day after Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Donovan Stanberry admitted he and other senior staff at the ministry received loans under the Cane Expansion Fund, a senior European Union official said the revelation has triggered concerns within the EU, which funds the programme.

At the same time, Audley Shaw, the Opposition spokesman on finance who quizzed Stanberry on the issue during a meeting of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) yesterday called on the auditor general to conduct an immediate an urgent audit of expenditure under the Sugar Transformation Programme.

Head of Co-operation at the European Commission Jesus Orus Baguena said if the Fund was mismanaged this would have implications for future payments under the parent project, which is the Sugar Transformation Programme.

"We are looking into it as we are concerned," the EU official said.

On Wednesday, Stanberry said he received a loan after making an application and that the process was transparent. Other senior

ministry officials also benefited from loans from the Fund.

"I was not a member of any committee that awards those loans. I have written to the Services Commission and declared it," he stated.

Orus Baguena told The Gleaner the EU would be carrying out its own investigation into the matter.

He said his organisation would also be seeking to ascertain information regarding the selection process in the awarding of loans under the Cane Expansion Fund, as mentioned by the permanent secretary.

conflict of interest

The EU official noted that contact would be made with the Sugar Transformation Unit to obtain details about the latest developments which surfaced at the PAAC meeting on Wednesday.

In his call on the auditor general, Shaw said the oversight body "needs to examine this state of affairs where the chief accounting officer who must account to the Government and Parliament for funds expended in his ministry, can himself, along with other officers, be in receipt of loans which are managed by the ministry.

"This appears not only to be irregular but is rank conflict of interest, and the minister of agriculture must now tell the country whether this scheme had his prior knowledge and approval," Shaw said.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com