Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Simpson Miller moves to safeguard campaign-funding process

Published:Monday | September 19, 2016 | 9:00 AMEdmond Campbell
People’s National Party President Portia Simpson Miller holds a child with assistance from her close-protection officers.
Former People's National Party President (PNP) P.J. Patterson is embraced by re-elected party president, Portia Simpson Miller, while her close-protection officers and a child look on the platform during the PNP's 78th annual conference inside the Karl Hendrickson Auditorium at Jamaica College in St Andrew yesterday.
People's National Party supporters singing the party's anthem during the conference.
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President of the People's National Party (PNP), Portia Simpson Miller, has given instructions to party officials to implement what she is describing as a more centralised system for campaign donations.

According to Simpson Miller, this move would ensure that funds raised are properly accounted for and used for the purposes for which they were contributed.

Simpson Miller's comments came yesterday during her address to the public session of the PNP's annual conference inside the Karl Hendrickson Auditorium at Jamaica College in St Andrew.

The instruction follows the recent campaign-funding scandal that was ignited by allegations contained in a leaked report from PNP treasurer Norman Horne that some members collected money for the party from donors but failed to hand it over.

Subsequent to the revelation of the content of the treasurer's report, allegations surfaced of a practice in which agent's fees were collected from companies with major government contracts.

Those agent's fees, amounting to a percentage of the contracts, have been likened to kickbacks, resulting in a number of agencies, such as the Office of the Contractor General and the police, conducting investigations.

Simpson Miller told PNP supporters that the campaign-finance legislation passed by her administration sets out a formal framework to govern fundraising and brings greater transparency to the process.

She urged the Andrew Holness administration to bring this piece of legislation into effect before any elections are called.

Commenting on the recommendations of the Appraisal Committee that reviewed the February 25 election loss, Simpson Miller said she would begin to implement these proposals this year.

The party president promised to appoint a special team to implement and monitor the recommendations of the Appraisal Committee.

She said there were far-reaching recommendations that were critical to the transformation of the party.

Simpson Miller also told Comrades that she would review the party's candidate-selection process.

"We must move swiftly to implement a system to prevent the divisions that have haunted and embarrassed our party over the last two years. We must never allow it to happen again," she stressed.

Turning to what she called the "blame game" within the party in the wake of the February election loss, Simpson Miller admitted that mistakes were made on the organisational side.

"We did not communicate with the people on the ground consistently and clearly. Some members of parliament failed to keep close to the people, despite my warnings," she said.

She stressed that engaging in a blame game would not advance the cause of the party but would only lead to division.

"We must take responsibility, where necessary. I am your leader, I take responsibility," Simpson Miller declared.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com