MPs say constituents believe they collected Hurricane Matthew money
Everald Warmington, chairman of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) of Parliament, told members of parliament (MPs) yesterday that they were "crying over spilt milk" as the representatives claim they are being hounded by constituents who insist that they received an extra million dollars to prepare for Hurricane Matthew.
The issue was raised on the motion to adjourn the CDF meeting and resulted in sustained debate and gavel beating.
Ahead of the passage of Matthew, Prime Minister Andrew Holness called a meeting of all MPs on September 29, where, among other things, it was decided that $1 million would be advanced to each constituency from their $20-million CDF allocation for the financial year.
However, Manchester North Western representative Mikael Phillips said communication from the prime minister and Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie gave the impression that MPs were given additional funds.
"I stood up in a hardware on the Saturday morning where a resident said to me, 'Look at how the prime minister has given you additional funds of $1 million,'" Phillips said.
However, Moveta Munroe, head of the CDF Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister, said: "I can't deal with perceptions at this point. I have to deal with what the facts are."
She said an email was sent to MPs asking them to outline how they would use the money, as well as reaffirming that the money was part of the $20-million CDF allocation. "The CDF Unit would be labelled as most irresponsible if we just disbursed $1 million," she added, before Phillips interrupted, saying, "But that is the impression out there by the Cabinet and the prime minister."
St Ann North Western representative Dr Dayton Campbell later intervened, explaining that because the situation occurred in the middle of the final year, some MPs may have submitted projects covering their entire CDF allocation.
"Therefore," he said, "[the MPs] would not have anything to advance and that is what is creating this problem out there. People are of the impression that this was new money that was made available to each constituency. The air needs to be clear on this matter."
Munroe dismissed that argument, saying no MP had received his or her full allocation, and that if there was need, the unit would have provided the sum.
Warmington, stressing that the issue had been addressed by the CDF Unit, told the committee members that "we can't cry over spilt milk, you know. This pass an gone."
Munroe, meanwhile, said while she could not provide a specific number, up to eight per cent of MPs had accessed the $1 million.