NWA takes heat in OCG debushing recommendations
The Office of the Contractor General (OCG) has made eight recommendations following its special investigation into last year's debushing programme, carried out prior to the local government election.
The report did not return any findings that the Government acted corruptly, but it noted that the emergency-procurement process used by the Cabinet "deviated" from established guidelines.
The report also raised questions about the interference of politicians and the use of so-called "facilitators" in implementing government projects. Several contradictions were highlighted between statements from Everton Hunter, head of the National Works Agency (NWA), which implemented the project, and senior government officials.
The eight recommendations
1. That the NWA, its accounting and accountable officers pay keen attention to, and ensure compliance with, the Government of Jamaica Public Sector Procurement Procedures and all other relevant and applicable policies in the award and implementation of contracts pursuant to the contracting-under-emergency-circumstances-procurement methodology.
2. Where a public body finds it difficult to interpret or understand certain provisions of the Government's procurement handbook, that the assistance of the Ministry of Finance's Procurement Policy Unit be sought to provide clarity.
3. Though not challenging the unfettered power of the Cabinet to provide general direction to and control over the affairs of the Government, the exercise of such power must be in keeping with the established policies, guidelines, and regulations that form a part of the rule of law.
4. There must be a strengthening of the relevant due diligence and contract-management systems of the NWA, particularly as it concerns the engagement of sucontractors by the main contractor.
5. In an effort to avoid even the slightest perception of political bias, conflict of interest and/or favouritism, members of parliament and councillors must refrain from becoming directly or indirectly involved in the execution of government contracts.
6. Members of parliament, councillors, and political operatives must recuse themselves from the decision-making processes or from influencing the manner in which government contracts are implemented and executed.
7. Implementing agencies and/or public bodies must treat with paramount importance and diligence the implementation and execution of debushing and drain-cleaning works.
8. The OCG strongly implores the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, and, by extension, the NWA, to observe the Government of Jamaica Public Sector Procurement Policy directive of ensuring that opportunities are provided in public procurement for capable local contractors and micro, small, and medium enterprises.