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Haughton presided over nepotism at Hanover parish council - OCG

Published:Tuesday | March 24, 2015 | 6:11 PMDaraine Luton

A special investigation conducted by the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) into the circumstances surrounding allegations of nepotism, conflicts of interest, irregularity and impropriety in the award of government contracts at the Hanover Parish Council has painted a damning picture of former Mayor of Lucea, Shernet Haughton.

The OCG, in a report tabled in the House of Representatives yesterday, said based on its investigations, there were "instances of nepotism, favouritism, and conflicts of interest involved in the recommendations for the award of government contracts to relatives and persons affiliated with Miss Shernet Haughton".

The OCG also said that 22 contracts, with a cumulative value of $3.7 million, were awarded by the Hanover Parish Council to relatives and persons affiliated with the former mayor.

"The award of contracts to the stated persons was as a direct result of the recommendations made by Miss Shernet Haughton. In making said recommendations, Miss Shernet Haughton failed to declare that she had a personal or prejudicial interest in relation to these contracts and contractors," the Dirk Harrison-authored report stated.

haughton's actions

"Miss Shernet Haughton recommended family members and affiliates for the award of contracts, which they received, and in some instances, co-signed cheques to said persons for payment. Miss Shernet Haughton also, in one instance, collected the cheque without an authorisation letter on behalf of said person," the report stated.

Haughton, who is also the People's National Party's (PNP) councillor for the Green Island division, stepped down as mayor last August amid pressure from her councillors and the leadership of the party.

In the special report, the OCG said Haughton's actions "have had the effect of undermining public confidence in her ability to act appropriately in her position as a councillor of the division of Green Island and in her then capacity as mayor and chairman of the Hanover Parish Council".

viewed with suspicion

Harrison said that during the course of the OCG's investigation, Haughton requested of the secretary manager, Judy Lawrence-McKenzie, that she allow contractors to write letters to be placed on parish council records and/or have them sign acknowledging receipt of their cheques with retroactive effect.

"This approach by Miss Shernet Haughton is viewed with suspicion and the OCG is of the considered opinion that had it been acted upon by the secretary manager, it would have caused the OCG to draw the irrefutable inference that Miss Shernet Haughton was, in fact, authorised to receive cheques on behalf of these contractors and/or that they signed and collected the cheques personally. The secretary manager rejected the unethical approach of the former mayor and must be commended for her stance," the report stated.

The matter has been referred to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for the determination to be made as to whether Haughton breached the Contractor General Act, the Code of Ethics for Councillors, as well as the Handbook of Public Sector Procurement.

A person who contravenes these regulations, or aids, abets, or otherwise knowingly facilitates or is an accessory to the contravention of these regulations, commits an offence and is liable, on summary conviction in a resident magistrate's court, to a fine not exceeding $1,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to both ... ."