Sat | Jun 12, 2021

Civil Aviation rapped for taking gifts from contract bidders

Published:Thursday | April 15, 2021 | 12:16 AM
More than 100 Jamaicans, including 75 shipworkers, arrive at the Norman Manley International Airport on a TUI flight from the United Kingdom on May 6, 2020, under the watchful eye of air traffic control tower operators. The Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority
More than 100 Jamaicans, including 75 shipworkers, arrive at the Norman Manley International Airport on a TUI flight from the United Kingdom on May 6, 2020, under the watchful eye of air traffic control tower operators. The Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority has been criticised by the Integrity Commission for receiving gifts from a contract bidder.

The Integrity Commission has penned a scorching 215-page report recommending that officers and officials at the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) cease and desist from accepting travel, meals, and other gifts from bidders or prospective...

The Integrity Commission has penned a scorching 215-page report recommending that officers and officials at the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) cease and desist from accepting travel, meals, and other gifts from bidders or prospective bidders, suppliers, contractors or consultants engaged to undertake contracts.

Kevon Stephenson, director of investigations at the anti-corruption oversight body, also strongly recommended that the JCAA ensure that all proposals submitted by contractors and consultants be treated in an unbiased and transparent manner. This, he said, would serve to eliminate any perception of favouritism, which could compromise the procurement processes of the Government of Jamaica Public Procurement Guidelines and Regulations.

The recommendations stem from the findings of the director of investigations into a probe, first initiated by then Office of the Contractor General (OCG) on January 28, 2014, into the registration of INTELCAN Techno Systems Incorporated with the National Contracts Commission (NCC).

It also investigated the implementation of a sole-source contract to the same company for the design and construction of the air traffic control towers at the Norman Manley and Sangster international airports.

Addressing a proposal of “gift giving” which was advanced by INTELCAN at the signing of the contract with the JCAA, Stephenson said the activity was “inappropriate on the basis that it could be construed as an ‘illegal gratuity’, which can be defined as an item of value given to reward a decision after it has been made”.

The then OCG saw a copy of an email dated May 13, 2010, sent by Bernard Goyette of INTELCAN to Marva Gordon-Simmonds, legal counsel, JCAA. Based on the contents of the email, the director of investigation found that plans had been made for the presentation of a gift during the signing of the contract between INTELCAN and the JCAA.

PREPARE FOR GIFTS

The referenced email stated, inter alia, the following: “As discussed before, I would appreciate if you could provide me with a list of the present 2010 administrators/key personnel at JCAA, including the members of the board.

“As explained, these names would be for inclusion in a gift INTELCAN wishes to give JCAA at contract signature.

“Make sure your name appears!! Monty, Noel, Patrick, all from directors up,” the correspondence read.

Gordon-Simmonds responded to Goyette by way of an email dated May 14, 2010. The email, which was also copied to Nicole Robinson, Patrick Stern, Lt Col Oscar Derby, and Noel Ellis and stated, inter alia, the following:

“... Since we spoke yesterday, I have passed your message on to our information manager, Ms Nicole Robinson, and noted that she did send an email message to you.

“I myself am of the opinion that preparation of gifts for ‘contract signing’ is a quite pre-emptive gesture since the matter has not yet gone before the National Contracts Committee [ sic], and must be approved by the Cabinet of the Government of Jamaica.

“So whilst I appreciate the gesture, my involvement in other such activities has seen mementos or souvenirs coming well after contract signing and commencement. That would surely be in order in this case as well, since the intended agreement would, if approved and consummated, see the parties working very closely together,” Gordon Simmonds replied.

During its investigation, the OCG became aware that as at July 29, 2010, when the contract between INTELCAN and the JCAA was executed, the former was not registered with the NCC.

The then OCG sought to determine whether there were breaches of the Government’s Public Sector Procurement Procedures; and the circumstances surrounding the award of contract by the JCAA to INTELCAN.

Based on the scope and value of the contract amounting to CDN$20 million, INTELCAN was required to be registered with the NCC as a Grade One contractor in the category of civil engineering and building construction prior to the signing of the contract.

The Integrity Commission said that the award and subsequent signing of the contract with INTELCAN constituted a breach of a provision in the then applicable November 2008 Government of Jamaica Handbook of Public Sector Procurement Procedures.

It was noted that Gordon-Simmonds, general counsel, JCAA, advised representatives of the JCAA, INTELCAN and EQS Jamaica Limited, the project consultants, that prior to the execution of the contract for the construction of control towers, the contractor must be in possession of a valid tax compliance certificate and be registered with the NCC.

However, the director of investigations said that EQS Jamaica Limited, through its chief executive officer, Allan Cochran, “provided inaccurate information regarding the NCC’s registration requirement for INTELCAN to the JCAA”.

Stephenson said that Cochran advised the JCAA by email correspondence which was dated July 22, 2010, that there was no requirement for INTELCAN to be registered with the NCC prior to the signing of the contract between INTELCAN and the JCAA.

Two months after the contract was signed, INTELCON, a Canadian company, applied to the NCC for registration in the category of Grade One civil engineering and building construction.

The company was subsequently registered with the NCC on November 18, 2013, approximately three years after the contract was inked between the JCAA and INTELCOM.

And based on documents received from the JCAA, the Integrity Commission reported that negotiations and/or consultation with INTELCAN began in January 2006, with members of the JCAA visiting Havana, Cuba, upon the invitation and at the expense of INTELCAN.

The director of investigations said that INTELCAN’s invitation to travel to Cuba, and the subsequent acceptance by officers of the JCAA, were “unethical and unprincipled”.

Stephenson argued that the acceptance of hospitality from INTELCAN brought into question the integrity of the process and could be viewed as an attempt by INTELCAN to favourably influence the JCAA’s decision.

The director of investigation also reported that the project was not only beset by missed deadlines but encountered significant cost overruns. He said the total cost variation for the tower project at the Norman Manley International Airport was CDN$980,773, while the variation cost for the tower project at the Sangster International Airport was CDN$10,091.

editorial@gleanerjm.com