Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Political ombudsman finds interest in PNP campaign funding scandal

Published:Friday | September 2, 2016 | 9:00 AM
Parchment Brown

The country's chief political referee, Donna Parchment Brown, says her office is closely watching the campaign finance issues now gripping the opposition People's National Party (PNP).

Parchment Brown said within the next few days, she would make a determination as to whether she would launch an investigation into the scandal that exploded in the face of the PNP two weeks ago.

"I have been following [it] and it is progressing quite rapidly. I will shortly determine whether or not I will take further action directly with the political party," she told The Gleaner.

Parchment Brown said her office was particularly interested in two main issues at this time.

"The first one is what appears to be an allegation about a practice of receiving a percentage on government contracts, and that agent is paid through an agent of a political party. That is a matter of interest to me if one is using one's position to interfere in the business of the State for financial benefit," Parchment Brown told The Gleaner.

FUND DECLARATIONS

She said the other issue has to deal with whether funds received by candidates for the election campaign have been reported on their declarations.

"The implication is that if the party did not get the money, then [we] are not sure what happened to it," the political ombudsman stated.

Despite campaign finance legislation not being in effect, the political ombudsman said she believed that current laws were good enough to raise the two issues that are of concern to her office.

She is, however, anxious for campaign finance legislation to be operationalised.

According to her, "there is a role for the political ombudsman to sign off on candidates for reimbursement from any state fund that may be developed as part of the campaign finance reform".

Parchment Brown added: "We are getting conflicting statements in the public domain as to whether indeed there is this one to 1.5 per cent of government contract practice where the party in power would be expecting to get this agent's fee."

She said: "If that is the case, and if that has occurred, then that is to be roundly condemned."

Parchment Brown said it would not reflect Jamaica's ideals and "who we are as a country and what we expect of our political leaders".

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com