'Let them come'!
NHT chairman ready for legal action and audit probe of Outameni purchase
Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor
Under-pressure chairman of the National Housing Trust (NHT), Easton Douglas, is welcoming a proposal from the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to mount a legal challenge against the purchase of the Trelawny property which housed the Outameni Experience.
Douglas is also eagerly awaiting a probe of the $180-million purchase by any state agency.
"If there is any question of the legality, let us test it in court," Douglas told The Sunday Gleaner late last week.
"I would welcome the court challenge because I would love for this matter to be tested in court," added Douglas, as he argued that a legal ruling would establish well-needed precedent.
Section 5(1) of the NHT Act vests the board with responsibility for the policy and general administration of the affairs of the Trust.
It has been argued by some lawyers that given the wording of the act on the powers of the Trust, the board has the scope to accommodate the acquisition of the attraction within its elastic boundaries.
However, other lawyers argue that the board overstepped its bounds as Section 4(1) of the act, which sets out the functions of the Trust, makes no provision for this type of purchase.
LEGAL MINDS SPLIT
With legal minds appearing split over whether the NHT board had the legal authority to approve the purchase, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness has signalled that the JLP is considering taking the Government and the board of the NHT to court.
According to Holness, there is a strong case against the Government and the board, and while court action may be costly, "the JLP is considering seeking assistance from the private sector".
But a confident Douglas declared that neither he nor the other board members would shy away from a legal challenge.
"That is why we have the Westminster system of government where the judiciary is independent of the executive so any action can be tested in court."
The NHT chairman and former government minister was also adamant that nothing underhand was involved in the decision to purchase the mothballed attraction which has lost millions of dollars since it was opened by Lennie Little-White in 2007.
"If there is to be a probe to be carried out by the auditor general or the contractor general, then let them come," declared Douglas.