Letter of the Day | Account to OCG, PM
THE EDITOR, Sir:
On Monday, I listened to the unedited recording of Prime Minister Andrew Holness' response about the political ombudsman's concern for the timing around the pending $600m roadworks in St Mary South East. Initially, many had got the impression that The Gleaner headline 'Not you, Madam! I am answerable to the contractor general, prime minister tells political ombudsman', was directly quoting the PM. That was, fortunately, not the case.
The PM's actual reply was that the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) and the National Contracts Commission (NCC) are the agencies with constituted authority to oversee the integrity of the contracting process and "I respond to them in these matters". Rules of comprehension, however, indicate that the PM is nonetheless saying - I am under no obligation to respond to the political ombudsman in this matter, rather, if asked, I would only be obliged to respond to the OCG and/or NCC.
What's the difference? His reply was more a diplomatic 'mind your business' rather than the initially perceived imperious, arrogant rebuff. Very different tone, for which I am glad; very same substance, for which several questions remain. The PM went on to say that the concerns specific to the pending $600m roadworks in St Mary South East were not valid (seriously?). BUT he was prepared to engage in bipartisan talks to mitigate general concerns about spending public monies close to elections for partisan benefit. (Huh? Mi confused.)
While the people of St Mary are badly in need of road repair, all citizens of Jamaica are in dire need of improved governance. The upside is, we don't have to choose, we can have both. And the bonus, PM Holness, is that you get to regain diminishing credibility. It's a win-win!
In the last three months alone, citizens have questioned the national security ministry's mishandling of remedying the Firearm Licensing Authority's corrupt practices, whether the zones of special operations are just a costly public relations stunt, and now, in light of your stated obligation to answer to the contractor general, we are left to speculate on the raft of reasons for your delayed answers.
It has been a long three-month wait, and counting, for your response to the contractor general's report on the $600m debushing programme. Your Cabinet was accused of (among other things) not only breaking several procurement rules, but interfering in the project's implementation process, which rendered the OCG unable to assess the value received for the $600m spent.
As you said, PM, you have an obligation to answer the OCG and should, before spending a penny on another $600m public works project that is set to begin before another political election. Major dÈj‡ vu.
This hardly feels like a squabble, but more a fight against perceived and actual corruption.
Let your actions speak, and drown out the words of your detractors, Mr Holness. Right now, it's but a mere whisper.
Executive Director, Jamaica Accountability Meter Portal