'OCG hinders development'

Published: Friday | December 21, 2012 Comments 0

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

INDUSTRY MINISTER Anthony Hylton said on Wednesday that the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) has in some ways been an hindrance to development in the country.

Hylton, responding to questions at Wednesday's Jamaica House press briefing, said issues of procurement and contracting need to be revisited.

"We have still not gotten the correct balance in our striving to eliminate corruption and to make strides at the pace that we need to," Hylton told reporters.

"The role of the OCG, for example, in the matter of contracting and procurement, is one that is currently being looked at, because it is clear that that has been part of the burden for the pace of business," Hylton added.

The industry minister said the Ministry of Finance is to submit a proposal to Cabinet about the changes to the act.

But Francis Kennedy, president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, feels that the problem at the OCG has more to do with management than the Contractor General Act, which is overreaching.

Siding with Hylton that the OCG has been an hindrance to investment, Kennedy said the system under which former Contractor General Greg Christie appeared bred fear and paralysis among civil servants and business people who interface with Government.

According to Kennedy, people's reputations are at risk of irreparable damage because of the approach of the OCG.

"People are unwilling to take any chances and they are going to dot every 'I' and cross every 'T' and make certain that everything is right. It lengthens the whole process of development," Kennedy said.

He added: "It is a major slowdown in the development process."

In the meantime, Brian Pengelley, the president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, has told The Gleaner that the powers given to the contractor general currently are not obstacles to his members doing business.

"I think the contractor general has a role to play, but as much as we are trying to drive growth and investment in Jamaica, it must be properly done," Pengelley told The Gleaner.

He said he is not aware of any business in manufacturing that has been impacted by the Office of the Contractor General.

Carol Narcisse, chairman of the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition, said if policymakers believe changes are needed to regulations or the act, they should do so in a transparent manner.

She argued that "while we can't make regulations become a strangulation", they serve an important purpose.

"They are there to mitigate and to minimise the possibility of corrupt or inappropriate practices," Narcisse said.

She reasoned that, if policymakers are desirous of changing the framework under which the contractor general operates, "they must go though the procedures available to them to propose changes, to have public responses to the proposed changes, consultations with the appropriate stakeholders, and arriving in a transparent way at a decision".

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com

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