Mon | Sep 25, 2017

OCG says sale of government-owned property to Bashco is tainted with irregularities

Published:Thursday | March 23, 2017 | 3:48 AM

The Office of the Contractor General (OCG) has described the sale of a government-owned property in downtown Kingston to Bashco Trading Company Limited as tainted with irregularities.

The OCG report on its probe of the sale by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) was tabled in Parliament yesterday, more than six years after the investigation started.

The OCG launched a probe in 2011 into the sale of the property located at 35 West Parade following a report by a tenant at the site.

Businessman Michael Mahfood complained to the OCG that the building, which he had occupied for about 30 years, was being sold to another entity although he had repeatedly offered to buy it.

The OCG said after it launched its probe it learnt that another company had also made repeated offers to buy the property from the UDC, but was told it was not for sale.

The OCG concludes that the sale process contravened government policy directives aimed at ensuring that public assets being considered for divestment are advertised.

The office also says the UDC did not solicit bids from any other entity despite the fact that three offers had been made for the purchase of the property before Bashco Trading Company Limited made its offer on February 15, 2011.

It says the UDC gave no justification for why the parties that had expressed interest in purchasing the property were not informed of the UDC’s intention to divest it.

Additionally, the OCG says even though the then General Manager, Joy Douglas, initially claimed that the UDC had developed a revised development plan for the area, the UDC was unable to provide evidence of this new plan.

The OCG also says the decision by the UDC Board to grant approval for the divestment in the absence of an approved and credible development plan reflects that the UDC’s Board acted with unnecessary haste, irresponsibly and contrary to stipulated protocols.

The OCG says in light of the fact that its Investigation reveals that the UDC’s sale of 35 West Parade was tainted with irregularities and breaches of the Corporation’s internal policies, it strongly recommends that the UDC develops operational mechanisms required for enforcement of all mandated policy procedures.

When the divestment first came to public attention in October 2011, the UDC had indicated it was taking the necessary steps to terminate the sale.

However, with Bashco threatening legal action, the UDC board decided to go through with the sale, on the attorney general’s advice.