Sat | Dec 15, 2018

Fate of 35 police cars unknown - Used car contract fiasco deepens

Published:Thursday | January 25, 2018 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue/ Senior Gleaner Writer

Another dizzying round of questions by members of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) on the contract fiasco regarding the 200 pre-owned police vehicles, which has left two government ministries and two agencies embarrassed, ended yesterday, with the fate of 35 of the remaining cars unknown at the end of the sitting.

Summoned to the meeting were technocrats from the Jamaica Customs and the Ministry of Finance to answer questions about the contract - for which ongoing sordid details have been emerging since late last year - about the undelivered vehicles.

The PAAC was left unclear as to how many cars remained of the batch, whether the number was 62, 66, or 68, as all three figures were used at different points during the meeting. A Jamaica Customs representative said that partial documentation has been received for 29 of the vehicles, but she could give no information on the balance.

"Jamaica Customs Agency is not in receipt of any Import Declaration for the 66 vehicles with a designation or reference to the Ministry of National Security for final duty payment. What we have that is still not yet finalised is 29 vehicles, Import Declarations, in the system, but have not been finalised. Finalised mean duties have been paid," explained Commissioner Velma Ricketts Walker.

She also said that millions remained outstanding to Customs in special fees for the clearance of the 30 cars currently being used by the police. The PAAC, which has been probing the expenditure of more than $200 million to the contractor, O'Brien's International Car Sales and Rentals Ltd, was told that only $1.2 million of the $9.2 million in special taxes on the delivered 30 vehicles have so far been paid. Just over $16 million in duties is owed on the remaining vehicles, and it was unclear if yesterday's meeting was the end of the matter for the PAAC.

The meeting also took a surprising turn as on three occasions, Marissa Dalrymple sought to have members stop their line of questions to the technocrats. She told them to stop digging for sensationalism as they responded to the best of their ability.