Sat | Jul 24, 2021

Construction watchdogs warned to have more bite than bark

Published:Wednesday | June 9, 2021 | 12:13 AM

Jamaica’s anti-corruption oversight body has recommended that the Hanover Municipal Corporation, the Negril Green Island Area Local Planning Authority, and the National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA) urgently develop internal policies and procedures to ensure the enforcement of penalties.

The agencies are tasked with the responsibility of issuing building, environmental and planning permits.

On May 13, 2016, the then Office of the Contractor General (OCG) launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the grant, award, issuance and use of prescribed licences and permits, which were issued in relation to the construction and renovation of the Blue Diamond Hotel Group’s Royalton Negril Resort. The hotel had been constructed on the property of the former Grand Lido Resort in Negril.

The then OCG’s decision to carry out an investigation into the construction of the hotel was prompted by media reports about the lack of approvals from the relevant authorities. Sections of the hotel later collapsed while under construction, injuring five workmen.

The developers/owners of Royalton Negril Resort started construction of permanent structures prior to the issuance of the building permit and planning permit, which contravened the Parish Councils Building Act and the Town and Country Planning (Hanover Coast) Provisional Development Order.

According to the Integrity Commission’s report, which was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, NEPA monitored the ongoing construction and renovation works at Royalton Negril Resort to ensure compliance with the environment and planning laws as the development was considered “high risk”.

Peter Knight, chief executive officer of NEPA, told the Integrity Commission that the agency employed a process of consistent monitoring and taking enforcement action in the appropriate case to ensure compliance with the environment and planning laws.

Director of Investigation at the Integrity Commission, Kevon Stephenson, recommended the pursuit of fines and imprisonment orders in relation to breaches and non-compliance of the terms and conditions of the permits as outlined in the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act and the Parish Council Building Act (Hanover By-Laws).

Stephenson argued that enforcement would serve as a greater deterrent and reduce the inclination to violate orders and notices issued by the municipal corporation.

Stephenson made the recommendations in a context where steps were not taken by the Hanover Municipal Corporation to pursue fines or penalties in instances where there was a breach of the Parish Council Building Act.

In a June 2016 Gleaner report, NEPA declared that it was never derelict in its regulatory role.