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Blame Portia - Opposition believes prime minister caused energy project setback

Published:Thursday | June 5, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller

Edmond Campbell, Staff Reporter

OPPOSITION LEADER Andrew Holness yesterday blamed Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller for the latest failed attempt by the Government to get the 381-megawatt project started.

However, the prime minister dismissed Holness' arguments during a heated question and answer session in the House of Representatives.

A strident Holness said that many persons were blaming Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell for the setback in the project, but insisted that the prime minister did not act decisively when the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) expressed concern about the bidding process and the inclusion of Energy World International (EWI).

"A lot of people want to blame the minister, but the blame really should be laid at the feet of the prime minister. When a competent body such as the OCG tabled a report on a major project in this country and says something is wrong we did not pay attention to it," he said.

According to Holness, the prime minister acted only after the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) raised concerns about the procurement process.

Paulwell revoked the licence
granted to EWI for the construction of a 381-megawatt energy plant in
Jamaica after the company failed to meet the deadline to post a US$36.85
million performance bond.

Holness asked Simpson
Miller what steps her government had taken when the OCG recommended that
EWI should be excluded from the bidding process on the basis that its
bid was submitted to the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) subsequent
to the expiration of the bid submission deadline of March 15, 2013,
which was issued by the
OUR.

Disagreements

Simpson Miller
hit back saying the Government disagreed with the OCG's report on the
matter. She also noted that the OUR had also disagreed with the OCG's
recommendation.

The prime minister told her
parliamentary colleagues that the Government received legal advice on
the matter.

"Mr Speaker, the urgency for me right now
is to get the energy project going ... . I am not here to score
political points, I am here to work on behalf of the Jamaican people ...
working, working, working," Simpson Miller said.

In a
quick response, Holness said: "The PM of the country cannot stand up
and say to the nation 'my only concern is to get the energy project
going' and not pay attention to the
procedure."

Meanwhile, Simpson Miller made it clear
that she had no plans to fire her energy minister, Phillip Paulwell, in
the wake of calls for his resignation.