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No debate with Joy - Auditor General

Published:Tuesday | September 23, 2014 | 4:34 PMEdmond Campbell
Pamela Monroe Ellis.

AUDITOR GENERAL Pamela Monroe Ellis has said she will not be drawn in any public debate involving former Urban Development Corporation (UDC) head Joy Douglas.

In a firm declaration during a meeting of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday, Monroe Ellis told the committee that her department would not participate in any discussion on a presentation to be made by Douglas before the oversight committee.

Following her audit of the UDC some two years ago, Monroe Ellis said two official responses were received from the agency's management, noting that her department had no "business with Mrs Joy Douglas".

no report

"As it pertains to Mrs Joy Douglas, I issued no report to Mrs Douglas. This department has no responsibility whatsoever to respond to a report produced by Mrs Joy Douglas ... I cannot be the arbitrator of two separate responses coming from the UDC and Mrs Joy Douglas."

Committee chairman Audley Shaw gave Douglas the green light to appear before the PAC to defend her stewardship following a damning 2012 performance audit of the agency conducted by the Monroe Ellis-led Auditor General's Department.

In the 2012 report, the auditor general highlighted several corporate governance failures, financial challenges and internal control deficiencies which impair the UDC's ability to manage effectively and efficiently the resources under its control. The report also pointed to deficiencies in the UDC's management of its investments in subsidiary and joint venture companies.

precedent set

Committee member Everald Warmington told PAC members on Tuesday that a precedent was set when the committee had given permission for the former managing director of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, Ruth Potopsingh, to respond to an auditor general's report before the committee. However, Potopsingh later changed her mind and did not make a presentation to the PAC.

Further checks have revealed that the audit to which Potopsingh had requested permission to respond to at the committee was undertaken by Neil Papineau Consulting Inc of Canada.

Committee member Everald Warmington batted for Douglas, saying the former UDC head should be allowed to make a submission to the committee.

However, Fitz Jackson, another committee member, said he was concerned that the committee could be used as a vehicle to defend personalities and not the institution in question. He said the committee might be travelling down a dangerous path.

In a quick response, Warmington questioned: "Why are we scared to allow the lady to appear before us ... I see no reason why we would want to shut her up. What do we have to hide? I won't be a party to hiding any facts."

But Jackson said it was unfortunate that Warmington used words such as cover up and hiding of facts, when those issues did not arise.