I was not aware, says Grange - Culture minister insists she had nothing to do with $15-million artistic director contract for 2016 Grand Gala
Culture Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange said though she did not know the details, she knew that Trevor Nairne, the partner in a company involving one of her senior advisers, was contracted by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) to be artistic director for the 2016 Grand Gala that cost approximately $63 million.
However, she said she was "not aware" of the details of Nairne's $15 million contract.
The disclosure from Grange was among her responses to 43 questions asked by her Opposition counterpart, Lisa Hanna, who on April 4 in Parliament accused the minister of presiding over nepotism and corruption.
According to Hanna, the contract was awarded "lock, stock and barrel", and that there was no negotiation on the amount proposed by Nairne to design costumes, choreograph performances and pay assistants - all of which she said could have been done by the JCDC.
Grange had rejected the allegations in Parliament a day after Hanna's assertions, but went into greater detail in her responses to the opposition member's questions.
In a statement to the media on Monday, Grange disclosed that Lenford Salmon, one of her senior advisers, is a partner with Nairne in Jambiz International Limited and sought to address the "link" she said Hanna was trying to establish in the award of the contract.
HANDLED BY JCDC
"No one at the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport (including Salmon) had anything to do with the engagement of Nairne," she said. "I was aware that Nairne was contracted as the artistic director for the 2016 Grand Gala. I received this information when I requested an update on progress being made in the planning of the event."
However, she continued: "I was not aware of the details of the contract and was not involved in any way in the engagement or contracting of Nairne. This was handled by the JCDC management team, whose prerogative it is to enter into contracts on behalf of the commission."
Fifty per cent ($7.5 million) of the contract amount was paid to Nairne on July 15, 2016 - the same day he submitted an invoice. The balance ($7.5 million) was paid in equal instalments on July 27 and August 28, according to a breakdown provided by the culture ministry. The Gala was held August 6.
Grange insisted that the contract was awarded according to the Government's procurement guidelines.
Jambiz was the company that was hired to produce the grand gala in 2012.
Hanna took over the ministry from Grange following the December 2011 general election.