Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Gov't land sold to fake trust - PNP authorised $10,000 sale of multimillion-dollar property to unregistered group

Published:Wednesday | September 14, 2016 | 9:00 AMEdmond Campbell

A private trust comprising three persons that received 11.58 acres of Government land valued at $164 million for $10,000, purportedly for the benefit of the residents of South West St Andrew, was never formally established, but yet received approval from the former Portia Simpson Miller-led Cabinet to acquire the property.

Following a recommendation by Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis for the attorney general to review the transaction, the Government's chief legal adviser has found that "the South West St Andrew Trust is not a real trust".

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in a statement to Parliament on the findings of a regulatory audit of the Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ), revealed that the trust was not registered locally and "there is no trust deed".

Additionally, Holness said the $10,000 that was supposed to be paid to the FCJ for the property was never given to the Government entity.

Monroe Ellis had raised concerns about the transfer of the property from the FCJ to the trust, saying that while the beneficiary was the community, the directors of the entity were three private individuals.

 

IN INTEREST OF COMMUNITY

 

Providing details about the land-transfer saga in Parliament, Holness said that in 2011, the FCJ had entered into an arrangement with a third party to sell 1.2 acres of the said property for $11 million.

Subsequently, the then Simpson Miller-led Cabinet, in a decision made on July 23, 2012, rescinded the sale of a section of the property where there was interest from the private entity and approved the transfer of the more than 11-acre land to the South West St Andrew Trust.

However, Holness said the land was within the zone where there could be potential expansion for logistics and other businesses. "The land has commercial value, but the land is also sentimental to the community, as there is an existing football field on six acres and it is part of the social and cultural heritage of the community," Holness added.

He told his parliamentary colleagues that his administration is not opposed to the community using the six acres, but noted that the development of the area should be comprehensive, providing job opportunities.

He suggested that sections of the land could be used for sport and recreation, while other parts earmarked for commercial development.

The prime minister said that the attorney general is still conducting a review of the matter as requested by the auditor general, and will submit a report on the matter.

Commenting on issues relating to governance practices at the FCJ, Holness said a newly appointed board has set up a number of subcommittees to ensure good governance and accountability in the company's operations.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com