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PM should quit or NHT board fired - JLP

Published:Sunday | November 16, 2014 | 6:35 PM
Labourites in a jubilant mood at the Jamaica Labour Party's 71st annual conference held today at the National Arena in Kingston - Norman Grindley photo

The Opposition, Jamaica Labour Party, today called into question Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller's management of the board of the National Housing Trust (NHT).

The JLP also questioned the truthfulness about her knowledge about the Trust's purchase of the Outameni Experience heritage attraction in Trelawny.

In his address to supporters in the National Arena this afternoon, JLP Leader Andrew Holness said the prime minister should dismiss the NHT board or resign if she was negligent in her supervision of them.

Holness' call was premised on scathing revelations by the Opposition spokesman on finance, Audley Shaw, who had minutes before disclosed to party supporters that the actual cost for the property was likely J$282 million and not J$180 million as it was reported.

Armed with information, Shaw today divulged that the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) had written off J$80 million in liability following the NHT's purchase of the property in December 2012. The debt emerged from a US$500,000 investment by the National Investment Bank of Jamaica (NIBJ) in 2005 by way of preference shares. The investment should have yielded an eight per cent annual dividend of US$200,000 or J$23 million.

According to Shaw, no dividend was paid by Outameni to the NIBJ and the debt was later written off by the DBJ, which he says, confirmed that it had released its interest in a no objection letter to the NHT.

Shaw suggested that the prime minister may have known about the investment from as far back as 2013 when the principal of Orange Valley Holdings, which owned the Outameni Experience attraction, wrote a letter to then managing director of the NHT, Cecile Watson, saying he would be copying the letter to the chairman of the NHT, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and other key government officials.

Referring to the letter by Outameni owners, Shaw also pointed out that the Government had questions to answer regarding its real intention for the property, as Little-Whyte had insisted that the heritage attraction should not be dismantled.