Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
A DECLARATION by Edmund Bartlett, chairman of a parliamentary oversight committee, that he would not share the contents of a "private" document from the Clarendon Alumina Partners (CAP) with the media on Wednesday, drew the ire of committee member Audley Shaw who quickly shot down the suggestion.
"This is public information. I am not going to be part of any cover-up to conceal any information from the public. CAP has cost this country dearly and there is no information on CAP that must be kept out of the public view. Let the information be tabled and made public," Shaw charged during a meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee.
The committee had invited the principals of CAP and permanent secretary in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Hilary Alexander to provide an update on the Government's efforts to sell its 45 per cent shares in the company.
Alexander told the committee that negotiations were continuing with Glencore and Alcoa to divest the Government's stake in Jamalco's alumina operations.
No final position
"There is not a final position at this point in time. There is a draft asset-purchase agreement that has been submitted to Glencore now, and that is being reviewed," Alexander said, adding that the draft agreement was sent to Glencore last month.
She said the draft asset-sale agreement now reflected settled positions on some of the outstanding issues such as alternate energy solutions.
The sale of the Government's stake in the loss-making entity is one of the requirements to usher in a new International Monetary Fund agreement with the State.
Meanwhile, Bartlett had informed members of the committee on Wednesday that he received a private report from CAP. He told his colleagues that he would send a copy to each member electronically.
Said Bartlett: "The only copy that would be available is the one I have, and we intend to treat with sensitive national issues in this way."
A seemingly agitated Shaw had asked whether the report was private. Bartlett said the document contained certain types of information which, for the "good order of governance, would not be made public".
He sought to explain that, if the document were released to the public, it might influence current negotiations which, according to Bartlett, "might be injurious to the public good".
Shaw quickly dismissed Bartlett's argument, stating that "what was harmful to the public was the amount of money that has had to be paid to keep up a faulty agreement that was entered into in 2004".
Attempting to give more details about the contents of the report, Bartlett said it had to do with strategic reserves in relation to bauxite.
An unrelenting Shaw insisted that the document should be released to the press. "Everything we deliberate here in this House is public business ... . It should be given to the press; it's public business."
He demanded a hard copy, rejecting the offer of an electronic copy.
"I am not into a secret arrangement with CAP," Shaw made it clear, noting that he would forward a copy to the press.
Intervening, committee member Raymond Pryce said the "principle of an open society for which these committees have been set up must also be taken into consideration."
However, in an apparent balancing act, he noted that he would not be surprised "if people beyond us can also understand that, if only for the timing, certain types of information may be dealt with in a particular way."