FCJ mum on AG's report
More than two weeks after Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis released a damning report on the operations of the Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ), the public body has remained silent despite efforts to get a comment from the head of the agency.
The Gleaner sought a comment from Kenneth Rowe, the acting head of the FCJ, who had promised to respond to the findings of the Auditor General. However, despite numerous calls for almost a week to Rowe's number, a response has not been forthcoming.
The FCJ was an agency under the former Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce. The former minister, Anthony Hylton, told journalists at a press conference organised by the People's National Party last week, that the auditor general's report covered periods for which he was not the minister.
However, Hylton said a response was being prepared by the FCJ. "I believe it is very important that we hold our horses and not rush to judgment until that response is released. They are preparing it and I believe that when that comes out it will bring clarity to a number of issues," he said.
The FCJ now falls under the ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, headed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
Just last week, the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA) said it was deeply concerned by the findings of the auditor general "concerning the apparent wasteful spending of public funds by the Factories Corporation of Jamaica".
In a press release, the JMA highlighted excerpts from the report pointing to a Cabinet-approved development of 200 acres of land, as part of the Caymanas Economic Zone initiative, in which a cost of $190.2 million was incurred by the FCJ but to date no benefit has been received.
The JMA also commented on the "failure of the redevelopment of Garmex Free Zone and commercial complex", even though $64 million has already been spent for tender documents and technical designs. It also raised concern about the delay in the development of 100,000 square feet of factory space at Naggo Head.
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The sector group charged that if the auditor general's report proved to be correct, "then we believe this represents a reckless disregard akin to gross negligence and misuse of the public coffers and a blatant indifference to the trust placed in the FCJ, and we expect there to be consequences on those involved."
According to the JMA, the various issues have been occurring at a time where demand for the availability and provision of suitable spaces for the productive sector are not being met, particularly for the micro and small manufacturers.
The Monroe Ellis-led Auditor General's Department also raised concerns about millions of dollars spent by the FCJ for private legal services despite having an in-house attorney who could have done the job.
A decision by the FCJ to employ five board members in key managerial positions, paying them a sum total of $25 million, has also been reported to Parliament by Monroe Ellis.