Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Ministry extends tax deadline in police vehicle controversy

Published:Saturday | December 2, 2017 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
Clement Ebanks, managing director of O’Brien’s International Car Sales & Rentals Ltd.
Some of the 30 used cars handed over to the Ministry of National Security by O’Brien’s International Car Sales & Rentals Ltd for the police earlier this year.

The Ministry of Finance and the Public Service has granted a six-months moratorium on tax and duties valued at over $34 million for vehicles imported by O'Brien's International Car Sales and Rentals Ltd for the Ministry of National Security.

The moratorium was granted on November 23 by Finance Minister Audley Shaw, a day before the final deadline the car dealership was given to deliver on a contract to supply the Jamaica Constabulary Force with 200 pre-owned vehicles.

In a letter to Commissioner of Customs Velma Ricketts Walker, the finance ministry said that it had approved the moratorium on the payment of Special Consumption Tax (SCT) and General Consumption Tax (GCT) for 50 cars and 18 pick-up vehicles being imported by O'Brien's.

"The Ministry of National Security will be required to pay the full SCT and GCT no later than May 2013, 2018. Failure to comply with the payment condition of the moratorium will render the goods uncustomed and thereby liable for seizure by the Jamaica Customs Agency," the letter said.

The car dealership had received a 50 per cent deposit on the government contract to deliver 80 Toyota Corolla Axios and 120 Toyota Double-cab Pick-ups for $426,930,400. Although the bid document required the delivery to be made in 90 days, the contractor has turned over only 30 vehicles so far.




Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Dianne McIntosh told members of Parliament's Public Administrations Committee (PAAC) on Wednesday that the contractor was requesting waivers of GCT and SCT, which was not part of the agreement.

The 90-day delivery period for the vehicles expired on June 5, 2017, but McIntosh told the committee that 66 vehicles were at the wharves waiting to be cleared as the contractor was unable to honour its obligation to pay all relevant fees for the release of the vehicles.

The PAAC has described the situation as a "scandalous mess", and both the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica and the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association of Jamaica have criticised the Government for their incompetence and lack of accountability to taxpayers.

In an interview with The Gleaner in June this year, managing director of O'Brien's, Clement Ebanks, disclosed that it was not easy securing the 30 cars for the Government.

"It was a very tough tender, and you had to find serious collateral to do this tender. It was the first I have ever tendered. You had to get professional people to do it, so we put a team together," he said.

The businessman said that he was "doing good for the country" and argued that the deal was helping to save the Government $86 million.