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More pressure on dons

Published:Tuesday | June 1, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Mark Beckford, Staff Reporter

The call to end the doling out of government contracts to bosses of the criminal underworld has been reiterated, as the operation to catch Christopher 'Dudus' Coke continues.

Incomparable Enterprise Ltd, a company for which Coke was a director, at least up to 2002, has received several government contracts in the past.

Political scientist Professor Trevor Munroe said Parliament should, within three months, draft, debate and pass appropriate anti-gang legislation.

"We need to allow for individuals and companies associated with gangsters to be caught within the law," he said.

He also said Parliament needs to consider and pass the recommendation of the contractor general that all subcontracting be subject to certification by the Police High Command. He said shareholders of these companies should be considered "fit and proper" and not be "persons of interest".

Munroe also called for no more contracts to be given to companies associated with Coke, and for existing accords to be cancelled.

Coke is regarded by the US government as a drug lord and now a fugitive by local authorities. An associate of Coke's, who has directorship in a company, surrendered to the police on the weekend after they ordered that he turn himself in.

The company, which is located on Spanish Town Road, received more than $71 million in government contracts endorsed by the National Contracts Commission in 2009. These contracts included the repairing of the Tivoli gully to the tune of $28 million. In June 2009, the company was also given three government contracts valued at $32 million by the Ministry of Water and Housing through open tender for various projects.

Plug loopholes

Last week, Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica head, Joseph M. Matalon, called for politicians to plug the loopholes which criminals take advantage of.

"We must make it clear to our political directorate that they must commit to ceasing the award of state contracts to organisations with reputed criminal partners and associates," he had said.

Political commentator Lloyd B. Smith said an independent oversight body should be established to scrutinise the background of persons or companies which are awarded contracts.

Smith also wants town-hall meetings to be held so citizens can have a say.

"We need these town-hall meetings where citizens are exposed to these contracts so that they can question or object. Very often, persons are getting contracts with no known expertise in the field and we end up with shoddy work and waste," he said.

The call to end the link has been issued over the years. An excerpt from the Jamaica Labour Party-sponsored MacMillan Report in 2006 had called for an end of contracts to garrison dons and their associations.

It said community dons had become an integral link in the distribution channel for political spoils and benefits, and were sometimes used to execute important and substantial projects financed with public funds. Using dons in this way not only legitimises their position in the community, but also provides financing, which could find its way into the criminal enterprise, the report said.

mark.beckford@gleanerjm.com