Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Attorney failed to hand over $70m for property sale - probe

Published:Saturday | June 11, 2016 | 6:00 AM
Monroe Ellis

Senior Superintendent of Police in charge of the Fraud Squad Anthony McLaughlin has confirmed that the police have been conducting an ongoing investigation into a complaint by the Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ) that an attorney had failed to hand over $70 million he or she allegedly received up to February 23, 2011, from the sale of one of the entity's properties.

In a Regulatory Audit and Financial Statements Assessments of the FCJ, the Pamela Monroe Ellis-led Auditor General's Department reported that since 2011, interest and penalties amounting to $39.6 million have been applied to the outstanding sum.

Monroe Ellis pointed out that subsequent to the audit, the FCJ reported the matter to the Fraud Squad. The audit, which was done in January this year, covered the period April 2010 to November 2015.

 

CONTRACT AGREEMENTS

 

The oversight body divulged that up to the time of reporting, the FCJ had not taken steps to recover $750,000 advanced on December 22, 2011, to the said attorney contracted at a cost of $3 million to review the corporation's policy and procedures manual.

According to the auditor general, the attorney did not deliver the draft manual and the service was terminated in September 2012.

The FCJ subsequently engaged a former employee to develop the policy and procedures manual at a cost of $750,000. "In none of the circumstances mentioned above did the FCJ present for audit scrutiny, contract agreements setting out the terms and conditions for the engagement of all the attorneys. The absence of contract agreements highlights a lack of transparency and compromises FCJ's ability to protect public funds," Monroe Ellis stated.

 

CONVEYANCE SERVICES

 

"The matter above pertaining to the attorney's delay in handing over the $109.6 million reinforces the importance of FCJ contemplating the use of internal legal services to bring such transactions fully within the realm of the Government's accountability framework," she added.

Monroe Ellis had earlier highlighted that the FCJ took the decision to engage attorneys to provide conveyance services instead of using the attorney employed to the company.

The FCJ is owned by the Government and falls under the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation. The corporation's mandate is to be a catalyst for job creation, development, and sustainable economic growth and includes the development and management of industrial and commercial space in the public sector.

The corporation's primary activity is the construction, management, and rental of factories. It is the largest provider of industrial and commercial real estate in Jamaica to a wide cross section of industries, including manufacturing, food processing, and commercial activities.