Wed | Sep 20, 2017

OCG questions honesty of three government ministers in controversial de-bushing programme

Published:Thursday | June 29, 2017 | 6:17 AMJovan Johnson
Contractor General Dirk Harrison.

Contractor General Dirk Harrison has concluded in a report that three government ministers may have lied about their role in selecting contractors, subcontractors and setting payment terms in the execution of the controversial pre-election de-bushing programme last November. 

The Office of the Contractor General's (OCG) special investigation report into the $800 million project was tabled in the House of Representative yesterday.

It said the project was a deviation from government guidelines and that the selection of the five contractors lacks transparency and accountability. 

It also outlined multiple instances of contradictory statements by Everton Hunter, the chief executive officer of the National Works Agency (NWA), which implemented the project.

But, some of the more revealing findings centred on five government ministers – Daryl Vaz and Everald Warmington, who work under the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Ministry, where the NWA is based. National Security Minister, Robert Montague, Energy, Science and Technology Minister, Dr Andrew Wheatley, and Labour and Social Security Minister Shahine Robinson are the others.

The report said Dr Wheatley, Montague and Warmington admitted to entering into consultative discussion with engineer Vincent Taylor who heads Construction Solutions Limited. 

That company had responsibility for works in St Catherine, St Mary and St Ann, parishes where all the ministers, except Vaz, are parliamentary representatives.

Vaz, the MP for Portland Western, held discussions with Patrick Gordon of Asphaltic Concrete Enterprises, the company that had responsibility for doing work in Portland.

Shahine Robinson's involvement is linked to the facilitator role played by her campaign manager, Tyrone Robinson, the now chairman of the North East Regional Health Authority and board member of the Tourism Product Development Company Limited.

The report said the consultative discussions held between the contractors and Dr Wheatley, Montague and Vaz led to the recommendation by the members of parliament of specific sub-contractors and facilitators who were ultimately selected for the execution and performance of the respective contracts.

It said that given the role played by the Cabinet in the selection of the contractors and the minister's membership, questions may arise as to whether the referenced members of parliament found themselves in an invidious or conflicted position.

The OCG report said though the ministers emphatically stated they made mere recommendations and suggestions, it concludes that those recommendations influenced the decisions of the contractors.