Walker questions OCG probe powers
Published: Wednesday | July 15, 2009
Commissioner of Customs Danville Walker says he will be launching his own investigation into whether the Contractor General Act indeed grants the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) the right to investigate auctions run by the Department of Customs.
On July 2, the OCG announced there would be an enquiry into the auctioning of abandoned vehicles by the Customs Department at its Queen's Warehouse, after allegations of irregularities had been raised by disgruntled members of the public.
In that announcement, the OCG argued that "auctions of the abandoned vehicles constitute, in essence, the divestment of state-owned assets, a matter over which the OCG has lawful jurisdiction".
It further stated: "Section 4 (1) (a) of the Contractor General Act mandates a contractor general to monitor the award of Government contracts with a view to ensuring that such contracts are awarded impartially and on merit and in circumstances which do not involve impropriety or irregularity."
Walker, however, though careful not to say directly that the OCG was wrong, has made it clear that he and his office doubt the OCG's reasoning and will be having the matter investigated.
"My staff is of the view that the sections he quotes do not apply to auctions. We will have that checked.
"I am no lawyer, but the legislation that sets out his jurisdiction is fairly clear as to where his jurisdiction covers ... . His legislation defines what it means as government contracts," Walker said.
He then stated his grouse very plainly: "I don't see his locus standi in the matter."
Walker stated that though he had his concerns, he would be complying with the contractor general in his inquiry.
"Regardless of whether (the law) applies or not, we are going to comply," he stated.
The OCG chose to be tight-lipped on Walker's concerns. When contacted by The Gleaner, the OCG stated that it desires that the Customs Department make contact in writing about whatever concerns it might have.
"The OCG presently awaits Mr Walker's response, in writing," the OCG response stated.
In relation to the auctions that have been cancelled, Walker stated that his department would resume auctioning vehicles and other items once there was a sufficient collection.
"We are going to proceed with our auctions and we are going to proceed with the procedures we know are fine." Walker stated.