Sat | Jan 19, 2019

Amend law to block NHT 'flexi-raid'

Published:Saturday | November 15, 2014 | 12:00 AM


Is the term 'flexi-raid' correct or totally inappropriate if it is used to refer to the act of taking money from the NHT to be used for purposes that depart from its specific mandate, but can be legally justified based on interpretations of any vague provisions or stipulations of this trust fund?

The National Housing Trust's acquisition of a 10-acre property (at a cost of $180 million) to be used possible as a tourist attraction has stirred deep controversy, with the Opposition declaring this to be a departure from the NHT's mandate and some board members adamantly defending this decision as a wise investment.

Board Chairman Easton Douglas spoke repeatedly in a radio interview about holistic development, and another member, Percival LaTouche, reportedly declared that this acquisition may prove to be one of the wisest buys. But he needs to state what is so magical or special about this property; and whether or not there are suitable state-owned lands along the north coast that could have also been developed with the same objective at a much lower cost, given (as stated by the prime minister) only the property and not the brand, Outameni, was purchased.

Prime Minister Simpson Miller, officially, has oversight for the NHT. Thankfully, unlike some former times, she was attuned to the news; at least in the month of October when, via the media, she first became aware of this controversial acquisition! This was her frank admission in Parliament.

Basic courtesy and official policy would dictate that the prime minister be duly informed. Respectfully to all involved, a lack of a formal and clear explanation for this procedural lapse will naturally raise the question of whether this was an anomaly or whether there are other crucial decisions, and matters of governance, on which the prime minister has been in the dark.

This is not the first major controversy regarding the use of NHT funds, and many more may arise as long as any government, or its board, has the flexibility to interpret the NHT Act in a manner to legally justify the use of its funds for purposes other than housing solutions.

Future controversies or any mismanagement of the Trust can be prevented if the stipulations of the NHT Act are amended and sealed in clear, specific and unambiguous language. Let us act now!