Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
The National Irrigation Commission (NIC) has distanced itself from the selection of the farmers and contractors who benefited from the controversial pre-2011 general election spending of millions of dollars.
Some farmers in Manchester and St Mary were selected to benefit under the NIC's water storage tank project in a deal that is to be probed by the auditor general.
But Winston Shaw, acting manager of the On-Farm Water Management Unit at the NIC, told The Sunday Gleaner that the beneficiaries were selected by the agriculture ministry.
Shaw's comments came days after permanent secretary in the agriculture ministry, Donovan Stanberry, told The Sunday Gleaner he was not aware of the contracts granted and paid for six days before Jamaicans went to the polls.
Nine individuals were paid $270,000 to supply water to farmers in Manchester and St Mary on December 23, 2011, while cheques totalling more than $300,000 were prepared and cashed for eleven 1,000-gallon tanks for the farmers.
According to Shaw, he does not know how the contractors were selected and how they were paid that quickly.
"I did not get any name of beneficiaries. To this date, I don't know who are the persons that were chosen.
"First of all, I am surprised that payments were made because when I submitted that project document - I know the contract was done because it was passed to the legal person at NIC - the contracts were signed based on whatever process; I wasn't involved in the selection process," stated Shaw who admitted that he had prepared a project document.
"But procedures were set out in the project document I wrote. I set out in the document every detail - from the type of crop to the amount of water needed. A log system was also outlined in the document.
"But when our auditors raised questions, my view was that if we paid for those tanks, we need to find out where they are and put them in our storeroom," stated Shaw.
According to the NIC's point man, one of the main provisions of the programme was that farmers would construct a reinforced tank base, which would have to be inspected by a technical officer before the tanks were distributed.
According to Shaw, he is happy that the matter is being investigated internally and externally as he has nothing to hide.
"I have nothing to worry about. I prepared the document, but at some point, we were dismissed from the programme. That's essentially what took place," he said.