Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Despite facing the bulk of the criticisms for the mismanagement of the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP), former chief executive officer of the National Works Agency (NWA), Patrick Wong, says he has no regrets over his stewardship of the project.
Wong broke his silence in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Gleaner days after a forensic audit on the project was tabled in Parliament.
The long-serving public servant was forced to resign from the NWA in November 2011 after a damning report by the auditor general into the operations of the JDIP.
But last week, Wong noted that he had waited silently for one year for the release of the forensic audit, and despite the criticisms, the auditors found only procedural breaches and no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Wong charged that he was the victim of a political football match played out by members of the Jamaica Labour Party and the People's National Party.
According to Wong, he was given the proverbial basket to carry water in the lead-up to the 2011 general election.
"It (JDIP) was the product of collective responsibility … . The country's infrastructure was damaged and had to be repaired ... . The likes of the Yallahs pipeline had to be repaired in the national interest, and we were not given the resources. No one can dispute what I am saying," charged Wong as he rejected the claim that he had wilted under pressure.
The auditors found that after coming under tremendous pressure from politicians, Wong chose to ignore the approved budget, in favour of meeting the demands, resulting in JDIP expenditure of approximately US$20 million and US$75 million over budget in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
INFRASTRUCTURE IN BAD SHAPE
Wong told The Sunday Gleaner that he was driven to act by the parlous state of the nation's infrastructure.
"It was in such bad shape, and everybody (members of parliament on both sides of the political divide) was making excessive demands," Wong argued, even as he questioned the conduct of the politicians.
"Where were their voices when the Budget was being crafted and approved in Parliament?"
Wong insisted that no other infrastructural initiative before the JDIP had been exposed to such levels of quality assurance and quality control.
He said the selection of the subcontractors, which was criticised by the auditors, was in accordance with an unwritten protocol.
"The unwritten protocol was established by former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson that MPs must be consulted," he stressed.
"The recommendations of the MPs were, therefore, considered in accordance with the unwritten protocol that existed."