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NIA presses tight-lipped Gov't to take action on OCG report - Cabinet expected to discuss findings as pressure mounts

Published:Thursday | September 19, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (left) to fire State Minister Richard Azan (right) if he does not offer his resignation.

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

The Gleaner has been reliably informed that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is moving to convene a special meeting to discuss the findings of the contractor general in the Spaldings Market shops scandal.

The prime minister is expected to make an announcement on Richard Azan's future as a government minister following the Cabinet deliberation, as pressure mounts on her administration to axe the embattled junior minister.

This comes as calls by civil-society groups grow louder for Azan, state minister in the transport and works ministry, to resign or be fired.

Yesterday, the National Integrity Action (NIA) argued that where impropriety has been established, Azan should either "as a matter of conscience and propriety, resign or, in the absence, be fired".

In a news release yesterday, the NIA reminded the prime minister of her public declaration that any member of her team found to be involved in corruption would be dealt with decisively.

"The real but far-too-limited tradition, in both political parties, of ministers resigning in light of established impropriety … must be adhered to in this instance," said the group.

DECISION EXPECTED AFTER REVIEW

The prime minister had suggested that as soon as Contractor General Dirk Harrison completes his report and submits it to Parliament, Cabinet would make a decision on Azan's future as a government minister.

At yesterday's Jamaica House briefing, Minister with Responsibility for Information Sandrea Falconer told journalists that Cabinet had not yet reviewed the report and, as such, she could not entertain questions on the issue.

However, this did not prevent journalists from directing a barrage of questions to Falconer, who maintained her earlier position.

Pressed on whether Cabinet would convene a special meeting before weekend to review the contractor general's report, Falconer said: "I am sure that it will be dealt with swiftly. It will be done in short order."

NO PERSONAL COMMENT

The information minister also refused to offer her perspective on the latest developments, saying: "I have no personal comments on the matter."

In his special report on the Spaldings Market shops controversy, Harrison stopped short of recommending that Azan be sacked as junior minister, noting that his role in the messy affair was, at best, "politically corrupt".

Harrison recommended that "due consideration be given to instituting appropriate disciplinary action against the Hon Richard Azan, in accordance with the Westminster model of government".

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com