Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
CHAIRMAN OF Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) Edmund Bartlett yesterday described as "dangerous" committee member Richard Parchment's statement that he "gave out (government) work" in his constituency.
"To make a comment that you gave out work is a very dangerous thing to say, because, indeed and in fact, you are not suppose to and I don't think that you do," Bartlett cautioned.
Chief Executive Officer of the National Works Agency (NWA) E.G. Hunter quickly distanced his agency from Parchment's pronouncement, saying of any MP who gives out a contract, "he is on his own". Hunter stressed that he did not intend to wear short pants at this stage in his career, meaning, he did not want to be sent to prison.
The South East St Elizabeth MP's comment raised eyebrows during yesterday's deliberation by the committee. The oversight parliamentary committee had invited the executive of the NWA to make a presentation on fluctuations in the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP) projects and the vexed issue of sums owed to subcontractors.
Parchment's comment came against the background of mounting pressure on MPs by constituents who work on JDIP projects in their constituencies and were not paid.
"When work is to be given out in my constituency, I am saying don't give it out, because when the people work and can't get pay, I am being bombarded," said Parchment.
"Just the other day, they had some bushing and drain-cleaning work and I am saying I don't want it to be given out unless I know that the money is there to pay as soon as it is done. I was assured that the money was there.
"I gave out the work, I was assured by my NWA manager that the money is there and I said, 'go ahead, do your thing'. ... The work has been completed a month now, (yet) no money, and I am afraid to go to my office on Friday because I know what is going to happen."
In response, the NWA CEO said he was glad that Parchment made the confession, adding, "may his soul rest in peace".
"I have on my computer an email from another MP to me saying 'you know Mr Hunter, I gave out some work and the men say that ... they want more money'. As far as I know - and if I am wrong, I would like to be corrected - there is no MP who has any right to give out any work, and if any MP gives out any work then he is on his own."
The NWA head told the committee that he had advised his staff that in the case of a mitigation programme, they could meet with the MP or the councillor to get their input in terms of the project.
According to Hunter, an MP has all the right to recommend people to work, but in the final analysis, it is the agency which has the right to choose the persons to work on the project.
Hunter said his modus operandi since he started working at the NWA is to insist that any job above $500,000 must go to public tender. "I don't want anybody telling me that this man or that man must get it (a contract).
"Anyone who gives out work on their own, consider it as charity," Hunter argued.
However, Parchment explained that the project to which he made reference was signed off by the NWA parish manager and sent to the head office, but after an extended period, the persons who worked had not been paid.