Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
A committee headed by the general manager of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), Desmond Malcolm, has been hastily established to devise strategies to curtail the haemorrhage within the organisation, triggered by several reported cases of management malpractice.
"We are going on what we are going to call 'Operation Restoration'," disclosed UDC Chairman K.D. Knight in reference to a special audit report submitted to Parliament by Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis, which highlighted former board members getting a total of nearly $500,000 for meetings at which they failed to show.
"The auditor general's report revealed some serious flaws in the management and operations of the UDC over the period prior to this (Portia Simpson Miller-led) Government," said Knight, stressing that the period under scrutiny was related to the management team installed by the Jamaica Labour Party administration.
"We have put a team in place to ensure that corrective action is taken on each flaw that has been revealed in the report," Knight added.
The report, which was tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, stated that the UDC was failing in its corporate objective of assuring the financial viability and solvency of the organisation.
SHODDY STATE OF AFFAIRS
The Auditor General's Department painted a damning image of the state of affairs at the organisation, which was established to plan and implement orderly and sustainable development across the island.
On the long list of complaints contained in the report was the UDC's failure to execute its corporate-governance initiative to develop and adhere to accountability and compliance standards across the organisation.
It revealed that the UDC incurred $26 million in cost overruns on 17 social-intervention programmes. The report stated that while noting one of the projects was plagued with theft and numerous disputes, the UDC did not provide any justification for the other 16.
The auditor general reported that the UDC abandoned plans to relocate its head office after purchasing the Machado complex for $85 million because of its failure to undertake the necessary due diligence, including a feasibility study prior to acquisition.
Knight said the Malcolm-led team would be moving to ensure that the flaws identified are not only corrected, but bring about sweeping changes in how management operates.
"This is intended to have the UDC put on a firm footing where it can truly realise its mandate," Knight said. "This will relate to management, structure and investments."
Asked whether there were likely to be any casualties for the poor state of affairs at the UDC, Knight declined to comment.
"I don't want to go into that right now … ," he said.