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Outameni scandal caused by 'arrogance and recklessness' of NHT board members

Published:Tuesday | November 18, 2014 | 10:59 AM
Dr Davidson Daway - File

Jovan Johnson, Gleaner Writer

KINGSTON, Jamaica:

Former National Housing Trust (NHT) board member Dr Davidson Daway, says the Outameni scandal rocking the trust was bound to happen because of the “arrogance and recklessness” of some board members.

He told The Gleaner/Power 106 News Centre that the Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller now has no choice but to send the current members packing if she wants to rescue her legacy and save poor people’s money.

Daway was among four members who resigned in March, sending strong signals from then that all was not well within the entity set up to give Jamaicans affordable housing.

“This was bound to happen because of the recklessness of the whole situation of the board and that was one of the reasons why I moved away.”

He says when the Outameni proposal came to board discussions, initially in December 2012, some members did not have much of an input, which, according to him, confirmed some of the ethical challenges facing the board.

“It came in the form of a report from the managing director at the time and there was some dissent to the idea, however, it was decided that the report should return back to a committee for prudent recommendation. I never saw it again.” he explained.

It has emerged that the NHT’s technical committee had indicated that the Outameni purchase could be out of the mandate of the trust but board chairman Easton Douglas reportedly indicated that the board had already made a decision.

However, Daway is now countering that assertion. “There wasn’t even a vote, it was a discussion. I am pretty surprised to be hearing of it [the Outameni purchase]. I cannot remember in any meeting where that [vote] was taken and I have been searching my notes and not found anything. We had a meeting in December and the next one was February and I attended both.”

The NHT chairman has said the board authorised the purchase of the property for $180 million in December 2012.

Daway says while his resignation was not specific to the Outameni purchase, he was fed up with how the board carried out its functions.

“The board was more or less a free-for-all, well, not free for all [but] free for a few. Only the views of certain people were actually recognising. Things like dissenting views were not really published and that was a problem for me.

Pressed as to why he remained on the board for almost two years given his feelings, Daway claims he was “still trying to learn the operations of the board and the trust, I took my notes along the way and then recognise that this is something I’m not very happy with.”

Meanwhile, Daway says the axing of former managing director Cecile Watson may have links with her expressed concerns about the Outameni purchase.

“She was one of the most efficient leaders at the trust and I remembered her arguing at some point about it [Outameni purchase] not being, at this particular time, a prudent thing. [But] in good conscience, I cannot say that is what triggered the separation but I’m concerned that that was one of the issues.”

Watson was sacked last year after being accused of unauthorised expenditure to undertake renovations to the NHT’s board room and executive floor.

Daway says his resignation in March as well as that of three other board members should have been a wake up call to the Prime Minister.

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