‘Propaganda’ - Phillips stands by Hanna, Paulwell as PNP grapples with cronyism scandal
People’s National Party (PNP) President Dr Peter Phillips says his full-throated defence of senior opposition legislators Lisa Hanna and Phillip Paulwell does not mirror Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ position on Dr Andrew Wheatley amid the Petrojam scandal.
Speaking with The Gleaner Sunday on the sidelines of a meeting of councillors and councillor caretakers from Regions One and Six at the S Hotel, Phillips said there was no basis on which to compare the actions of Wheatley with Paulwell’s or Hanna’s.
“Absolutely not! My defence of Paulwell and Hanna is in no way, shape, or form a reflection of what the Government has done based on the report of the OCG,” Phillips, who is also opposition leader, said of the Office of the Contractor General.
“There is nothing for her to answer to in that regard,” Phillips said.
Lisa Hanna, a legislator and chief opposition spokesperson for an imminent election campaign, narrowly escaped criminal charges but has been scolded for nepotism and cronyism over the award of contracts valued at approximately $3 million over a period.
The ruling has been with the Integrity Commission, into which the OCG was subsumed, since July 2019 but has not been made public.
Hanna’s husband, Richard Lake, who was then on her constituency executive, is still at risk of being charged, the director of public prosecutions (DPP) has said.
In November 2017, then Contractor General Dirk Harrison asked the DPP to consider whether conflict of interest was involved in Hanna’s recommendation of contracts to 12 people linked to the PNP.
The Integrity Commission report, which was tabled in Parliament last Tuesday, raised questions about the role of Paulwell, co-campaign director and member of parliament for Kingston Eastern and Port Royal, in a $6-million donation he requested of Petrojam for Camperdown High School towards the construction of a mini sports complex. Paulwell has denied impropriety.
Camperdown High is located in Paulwell’s constituency.
“No! It’s not the same thing. There are no allegations of any corruption that have been proven,” Phillips told The Gleaner.
“Paulwell did one simple thing, which is to request support for Camperdown High School. He has had nothing to do with it since the monies were provided to the school, and the board has attested to that,” Phillips said, referring to school board chairman William McLeod.
“The same is similar for Lisa Hanna. It is pure propaganda without foundation,” the PNP president added.
Speaking with The Gleaner on Sunday, Hanna said the OCG report was over and done with.
“That issue is completed. I cannot comment on what I have seen in the media because I have neither seen the report, nor has it been tabled in Parliament,” Hanna said.
The St Ann South East MP refused to respond to whether she should resign her portfolio as campaign spokesperson.
Last week, Holness stood by Wheatley, whom he said would run on the ruling Jamaica Labour Party ticket in the next general election, due in 2021.
Holness also said he could not displace the duly elected St Catherine South Central MP but did not rule out the possibility of him returning to a future Cabinet. The prime minister indicated that that decision would take into consideration public opinion.
Wheatley was cited in the Integrity Commission report as “dishonest” but was not believed to have engaged in nepotism.