Sat | Dec 16, 2017

Vehicles parked - Gov't hunting 119 motor cars for police before Christmas

Published:Wednesday | December 6, 2017 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Minister of National Security Robert Montague reacts while he was questioned in Parliament yesterday about the Government’s controversial motor-vehicle deal.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake looks on while Minister of National Security Robert Montague addresses the Parliament on the Government's controversial motor-vehicle deal for the police.
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After a 22-page statement yesterday in the House of Representatives by National Security Minister Robert Montague and follow-up questions from opposition lawmakers on the 66 vehicles on the wharf to be delivered to the police force by O'Brien's International Car Sales and Rentals Limited, Jamaica remains in the dark as to when this motor car debacle will be resolved.

At the same time, Montague told the country that the ministry was now going through the procurement process to secure 119 vehicles for the police before Christmas.

But despite repeated assurances that the Government was doing everything to get the 66 vehicles on the wharf to the police at the earliest possible time, Montague claimed that there were legal roadblocks.

With what appears to be a stalemate between O'Brien's and the Ministry of National Security in relation to the payment of general consumption tax (GCT) and special consumption tax (SCT) on the vehicles, both parties appear to be on a collision course that Montague said could end up in court.

The minister insisted that the contract was clear that O'Brien's should pay the duties. However, permanent secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Diane McIntosh, told Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee last week that O'Brien's had requested waivers of GCT and SCT.

Montague told his parliamentary colleagues that the ministry has called on the performance bond in the sum of $42 million put up by O'Brien's, noting that this sum could be used to pay Customs for the SCT and GCT.

However, he expressed reservations when asked why the Government did not take the vehicles and hand them over to the police. "When you call a bond or terminate a contract, persons have the option of going to court, and we want to be on firm and solid legal ground," Montague said.

"We await legal advice and we are not going to be rushed; we are not going to breach the contract, but we are moving with haste to treat with the 66 units," he stressed.

On the question of the customs duties paid on the first 30 vehicles that were delivered by O'Brien's, Montague said there was a moratorium, but his ministry had not paid to clear them.

He said the recent moratorium issued by the Ministry of Finance for $34 million covered the SCT and GCT for the 200 vehicles set out in the contract between O'Brien's and the ministry.

 

'Ill-conceived policy and bungled execution likely caused death of many Jamaicans'

Member of parliament for Manchester North Western, Mikael Phillips, yesterday queried whether the first 30 vehicles delivered to the police force by O'Brien's International Car Sales and Rentals Limited came off the wharf without a moratorium letter.

Minister of National Security Robert Montague then seemingly clarified that the Ministry of Finance had also issued a moratorium for the clearing of the 30 vehicles.

"At the time, there was an outcry and an upsurge and it was felt that we need to move the vehicles to make our police officers mobile as quickly as possible, and we did so, fully understanding that we have a performance bond of $42 million ... ."

Slamming Montague for what he described as an ill-conceived policy to import used cars for the police force, former minister of national security, Peter Bunting, said the minister could not find another police service in the entire world that took such an approach.

"This has been a flawed and corrupt exercise. More than 1,500 Jamaicans have been murdered so far this year and it may well be over 1,600 murders at year end," contended Bunting, adding: "If we assume that vehicles make the police more effective in patrolling and preventing criminal activity and responding to incidents of crime to minimise casualties, we must conclude that this ill-conceived policy and bungled execution has likely cost many Jamaicans their lives."

"In any self-respecting country, the minister who presided over such a debacle would have been held accountable. It is an own goal - time, money and lives have been lost as a result of this bungling," he charged.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com