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Holness cites Opposition for hypocrisy, untruth about NIDS

Published:Sunday | May 12, 2019 | 12:26 AMPaul Clarke - Gleaner Writer

Prime Minister Andrew Holness says that the Opposition has been hypocritical in its characterisation of his administration’s expenditure of the National Identification System (NIDS) project, work on which was halted by the Constitutional Court, which ruled it null and void in its present form. Holness vowed to return to the people of Jamaica with the appropriate legislation that meets the parameters set by the court.

Speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, the prime minister noted the differences in expenditure on aspects of the NIDS project by his administration and the Opposition.

“In answering the questions asked, it is absolutely important that the country is [made] aware that between 2011 and 2016, the Government of Jamaica spent US$1.26 million on the NIDS project, that’s approximately J$150 million,” said Holness.

He told Parliament that during that time, the administration spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising campaigns that went nowhere, essentially wasting millions in the process.

The People’s National Party formed the Government after the December 2011 general election and lost power in the February 25, 2016 polls.

But halfway through his presentation, Holness was drawn to respond to an off-mic statement from an opposition member, triggering a terse response.

“Do you want to know how much your Government (administration) spent on NIDS and never even brought a bill to this House? Do you want to know? I would advise you not to say a word. I would advise you not to even raise the matter,” said Holness.

“You want to know?, Oh, lovely,” quipped Holness to questions asked from the Opposition benches. “On advertising, Mr Speaker, they spent US$95,000 on advertisement. Mr Speaker, they printed T-shirts. They developed advertising plans. None of that, Mr Speaker, was ever used. We still have the T-shirts, they can’t be used – US$95,000,” Holness said.

According to the prime minister, the Portia Simpson Miller-led Government at the time spent US$641,000 on consultants.

He also lashed the Opposition for attempting to paint the administration as arrogant.

“As I said, there is a certain level of hypocrisy and untruth on that side about the NIDS project,” Holness stated, adding that it is not his intention to use it as political football.

“So, Mr Speaker, I say pardon my speed, but the people of Jamaica must join the rest of the world at the cutting edge of modernity and the digital society. We will not delay on this,” said Holness.