Wed | Jul 24, 2019

Tough law needed now - Munroe wants regulations to give effect to procurement legislation

Published:Wednesday | December 19, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

Executive Director of National Integrity Action (NIA), Professor Trevor Munroe, has called on Prime Minister Andrew Holness to take steps to ensure that regulations are drafted urgently to bring into effect the Public Procurement Act.

This legislation, which received the governor general's assent on October 5, 2015, provides for criminal charges and/or surcharges against persons breaching procurement law.

Munroe endorsed suggestions made by various interest groups to recover revenue spent inappropriately at Petrojam. However, he said they did not go far enough given "the disgraceful nature of breaches revealed in recent and earlier auditor general reports" on the state-owned oil refinery.

Yesterday, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) threw their full support behind recent calls from social activist Dr Paul Ashley and business executive Don Wehby in urging restitution from those responsible for "ill-conceived" expenditure at the troubled Petrojam oil refinery.

"As it pertains to wrongdoing, we are in support of demands that restitution is made with respect to ill-conceived expenditure and for the Petrojam board to bring civil actions where appropriate," the group stated.

This comes in the wake of the damning auditor general's report on the operations of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) and its affiliate, the state-owned oil refinery Petrojam, pointing to "explicit acts of nepotism" at the entity and deficiencies in human-resource recruitment and management practices.

Following an outcry from a wide cross section of the society, the presidents of the PSOJ, JMEA and the JCC last week, met with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and held a separate meeting with the Opposition People's National Party. Discussions were held on the auditor general's report on Petrojam and the PCJ.

"The parties also took the opportunity to discuss other governance issues within the public sector and reform needed to improve the oversight and regulation of management practices within government entities," stated the release from the sector group.

The prime minister advised that he has instructed the minister of finance and public service, Dr Nigel Clarke, to move expeditiously to implement the protocols for the nomination, selection and appointment of directors to public boards and ensure that these protocols are in place for the 20 most critical statutory boards by the fiscal year beginning March 2019.

The private-sector bodies said they were awaiting the forensic audit on the oil losses, as well as findings from the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency's investigations, which will determine if criminal charges are to be brought forward.

The private-sector leaders recommended an independent review and certification mechanism. This proposal was favourably accepted by the prime minister.

Holness assured stakeholders that he was moving on several fronts to improve the governance framework and operations, listing the following steps which he has already taken with regard to Petrojam:

- Appointment of a new board,

- Implementation of new procedures for retainer contracts.

- Implementation of new reporting procedures and scope of audits.