OCG urges probe into Hanna, St Ann council over contract awards - Report warns MPs, councillors to stop recommending persons for contracts
Contractor General Dirk Harrison has sent a copy of his special report on allegations of impropriety in the office of Member of Parliament (MP) Lisa Hanna, and the St Ann Municipal Corporation, to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for that body to consider breaches of the Government's Public Sector Procurement Procedures.
Harrison's voluminous 554-page report, which was tabled in the House of Representatives yesterday, was also referred to the Financial Investigations Division (FID) of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service "for due consideration and/or investigation as may be deemed appropriate.
The Office of the Contractor General's (OCG) referral to the FID relates to "allegations which were made, the sworn testimonies which were provided by witnesses, as well as the findings and conclusions of this report, as it concerns monies which were paid over to operatives of the office of the Member of Parliament, South East St Ann".
Among the 16 major recommendations to the DPP, Harrison is asking, inter alia, to determine "whether the actions of the accounting and accountable officers of the St Ann Municipal Corporation, in authorising and disbursing payments to Mr Blyden Brown in the amount of $285,000, without the requisite verification of the satisfactory completion of work in performance of a contract which was awarded by the corporation, was in breach of the FAA Act."
He said the municipal corporation, in preparing documentation, gave the impression that the work was complete, while having knowledge it was not so.
He, therefore, wants a determination as to whether that "amounts to an act of fraudulent misrepresentation".
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Regarding Hanna, the OCG has asked the DPP to consider "whether the actions of Ms Lisa Hanna, in making recommendations for the award of contracts to 12 persons affiliated and/or associated with the People's National Party, gives rise to a conflict of interest. Further, whether Ms Hanna, as a member of parliament and in this regard a public servant, wilfully neglected to perform her duty and/or wilfully misconducted herself by making recommendations for the award of government contracts amounting to an abuse of the public's trust, by acting fraudulently."
The OCG has also recommended that criminal investigations be pursued, and a determination be made as it regards whether the actions of Richard Lake, Hanna's partner, amounts to interference and/or gives rise to obstruction. Lake persuaded Joan McDonald to make a false statement and to mislead the contractor general by making the false statement, the report said.
The OCG said his recommendations were made under Section 20 (1) of the Contractor General Act, which mandates that "after conducting an investigation under this act, a contractor general shall, in writing, inform the principal officer of the public body concerned, and the minister having responsibility, therefore, of the result of that investigation and make such recommendations as he considers necessary in respect of the matter which was investigated."
Harrison said the municipal corporation stop the facility and practice of "group contracts" and/or "group payments". It was the position of his office that such a practice "is a corruption-enabling facility which is highly susceptible to, amongst other things, misappropriation of public funds and varying forms of corruption.
"In an effort to avoid even the slightest perception of political bias, conflict of interest and/or favouritism, the OCG recommends that members of parliament and councillors refrain from making recommendations for the award of contracts to employees, political party affiliates and/or operatives," said Harrison.