Rush on to clean up UDC - March deadline for agency to fix issues uncovered by auditor general
Correction & Clarification
In the lead story published under the headline 'Rush on to clean up UDC', readers might have been led to believe the UDC had been mandated by a second party to meet a March 31 deadline. This was not the intended interpretation as the deadline referenced was self-imposed by the UDC
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
The K.D. Knight-chaired board of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) has been given three months to tidy up a messy state of affairs that was late last year uncovered by the Pamela Monroe Ellis-led Auditor General's Department.
The mandate was issued to the management and board of the UDC during a high-level meeting of the corporation that reportedly revealed widespread malfeasance that well-placed sources claim corroborates the troubling findings of the Auditor General's Department.
However, in challenging the validity of the report, former chairman of the UDC under the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration, Wayne Chen, who preceded Knight, charged yesterday that the auditor general's findings are woefully lacking.
Chen also suggested that the UDC had been mismanaged by the previous Board under the People's National Party (PNP) prior to former Prime Minister P. J. Patterson's retirement from politics.
Knight, a former government minister who assumed chairmanship of the UDC in the aftermath of the PNP's victory at the polls a year ago, said yesterday that no more heads would roll as a result of the damning findings of the auditor general, which were tabled in Parliament last November.
"The heads that were responsible have already rolled because there were decisions made by the previous general manager who is not there and the Board which was replaced, so that the heads that should have been rolling ... the changes that would arise naturally from the foul-ups. those changes have taken place," stressed Knight.
He, however, said his team has been moving with dispatch to address the problems bedevilling the high-profile agency.
"We are moving aggressively on the timeline that we have given ourselves," Knight declared.
The UDC chairman also indicated that his team had been issued with the three-month timeline to address the 16 recommendations contained in the report. However, he said it would take longer to address the financial drain.
Said Knight: "We met and considered the auditor general's performance report; we considered each one of the 18 findings made by the auditor general as well as the 16 recommendations."
Three months to implement
Having analysed both findings and recommendations, Knight disclosed that both the Board and management were given the green light to implement the 16 recommendations.
"We were given a timeline of three months which expires March 31," he said.
For his part, Chen said he was at a disadvantage to comment as he was not in possession of all of the information on all that is happening at this time.
"But we inherited a particular situation. I can say that there was no excessive spending or any other issues that my Board would have implemented," stressed Chen.
Prior to his appointment to the position, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding had named businessman Louis Williams as board chairman, but Chen stressed that he would not place the blame on the shoulder of any one board member.
"The UDC has had numerous issues over the years; the most publicised one would have been the US$50-million overrun on the Sandals Whitehouse project so when they are talking today about J$20-odd million overrun on social intervention projects that were necessary in the crisis of 2009-2010, we are talking about cheese and chalk here."
Added Chen: "We are also talking about a type of different governance under the implementation of the International Financial Regulatory Standards and the new financial accountability and administration legislation. The governance environment also changed."
In addition, Chen said there was also the change of auditors at the UDC in that period.
"None of this is mentioned in the auditor general's report, so context is not there."