OCG asks for clarification following court actions challenging its powers
Contractor General Greg Christie wants Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Opposition Leader Andrew Holness to clarify the role of his office in relation to its substantial duty of providing oversight for the award of government contracts, divestment of state assets and the issuing of licences.
In a seven-page open letter yesterday to Simpson Miller and Holness, the contractor general questioned whether they desired "that the OCG should be strengthened or weakened".
He also asked whether the prime minister and opposition leader were desirous that the OCG should possess the lawful authority, under the Contractor General Act, to independently monitor and investigate pre-contract phases of government contract awards or the divestment of state assets.
Christie's concerns came against the background of two recent court actions against the OCG, the first by Transport and Works Minister Dr Omar Davies and the second by a private-sector entity.
Davies has challenged the powers of the contractor general to monitor the pre-contract phases of the award of government contracts while the private entity wants the court to rule on the powers of the contractor general to investigate the divestment of state assets.
The OCG boss pointed out that the monitoring of the pre-contract phases of the award of government contracts accounted for the overwhelming majority of the oversight body's current $180-million operating budget, staff and agency work.
Christie questioned the prime minister and opposition leader whether "any good purpose is being served, by the Government of the day, challenging the OCG, in the courts, as to what the Contractor General Act means or does not mean".
CLEAR POSITION ON AUTHORITY
He said the Government had the legislative capacity to forthwith amend the Contractor General Act to state unequivocally whether or not it wants a contractor general to possess the lawful authority to monitor and investigate the pre-contract phases of government contracts.
"Irrespective of what your decision is, I would respectfully submit that the Government and the Parliament should forthwith take the requisite steps to effect the necessary amendments to the Contractor General Act, to lucidly and unequivocally reflect that decision," Christie insisted.
Christie pointed to instances when the Government, past and present, supported his office in its investigation of pre-contract phases but apparently backpedalled "when it is politically expedient to do so".
In a response from Holness yesterday, the opposition leader said the time had come for a full parliamentary debate on the role of the contractor general.
He noted his public support for the OCG adding that "it is inconsistent with good governance practice that the Government would seek to weaken itself by weakening a critical agency of the state".