Thu | Jan 20, 2022

Robinson slams NPL ‘disgrace’

Published:Thursday | September 23, 2021 | 12:11 AM

Julian Robinson, the chairman of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), has described as a “shame and disgrace” the breaches reported in an audit of Nutrition Products Limited (NPL), which provides meals for poor children in primary and secondary schools.

At the same time, a former board member of the NPL, Robert Miller, said that news of procurement breaches and flagrant disregard for government guidelines came as a shocker to him.

He told The Gleaner on Wednesday that while he has not yet read the auditor general’s report, no information had come to his attention when he sat on the board that the chairman and other members had been involved in breaches or irregularities.

Calling the findings of the auditor general’s probe into the operations of NPL “disturbing and troubling”, Robinson said the damning report into the operations of the government entity should be immediately referred to the Integrity Commission for investigation.

In a performance audit of the NPL spanning 2015 to 2021, the auditor general reported that the public body paid $143 million to companies and individuals connected to board members and management staff to provide transportation, repairs and maintenance, sanitation, and other services.

“There are very clear breaches that had taken place. It appears that directors who were there to protect the interest of the entity were engaged quite literally in eating a food in enriching themselves,” Robinson charged.

He indicated that the report is likely to be examined by the PAC before the end of October.

“We need to remind people what NPL stands for – Nutrition Products Limited provides meals for poor children in primary schools and secondary schools and it is a shame and disgrace that an entity like that could be subject to these kinds of breaches,” said Robinson.

He called for an examination of the contracts that were awarded to entities connected to directors to see whether those contracts had been subjected to competitive bidding or whether people just used it as an opportunity to enrich themselves.