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Integrity Commission slaps NWA over contract awarded to late MP's personal accountant

Published:Wednesday | June 15, 2022 | 8:15 PM
The Integrity Commission urged the NWA to establish a formal policy regarding the independent evaluation of all recommended contractors and implement measures to ensure its careful enforcement.

The Integrity Commission (IC) has criticised the National Works Agency (NWA) over the award of a million dollar government contract in 2017 to the personal accountant of former Member of Parliament Dr Lynvale Bloomfield.

Bloomfield, of the now Opposition People's National Party, was killed in 2019. 

The IC has also slammed the state agency for failing to submit the requisite quarterly contract award (QCA) report to the then Office of the Contractor General (OCG), in relation to a contract awarded to Peggy Aiken in 2017.

Aiken was awarded the contract for drain cleaning and debushing work under a special mitigation programme in the Portland East constituency. 

Aiken was awarded the contract by the NWA on July 28, 2017 in the sum of $999,530 after being recommended for the contract by the MP. 

The Integrity Commission concluded that the then accounting and accountable officers of the NWA have breached the Contractor General Act as a result of their failure to submit the requisite QCA reports to the OCG, advising it of the award of a contract to Aiken.

The IC's Director of Investigations Kevon Stephenson has recommended that the findings of his probe be referred to the director of corruption prosecutions Keisha Prince for consideration based on Section 54(3) of the parent law.

The investigation report was tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. 

Stephenson said Bloomfield's recommendation of Aiken constituted a conflict of interest, contrary to section 4.2 of the Government of Jamaica Procurement Procedures Handbook 2014.

Members of Parliament and Local Government Councillors typically make recommendations to state agencies for the award of certain types of works in their constituencies or divisions. 

Owing to the fact that Aiken was his personal accountant, Stephenson concluded that Broomfield's recommendation of her to the NWA for the award of a government contract was "irregular" and indicative of "favouritism".

The Integrity Commission said it asked Everton Hunter, chief executive officer of the NWA to indicate the basis upon which the contract was awarded to Aiken.

Stephenson said the NWA failed to clearly outline the process used to determine the suitability of the contractor, other than Bloomfield's recommendation.

Hunter reportedly told the Integrity Commission that “the contract was awarded to Peggy Aiken on the recommendation from the Member of Parliament, after which the NWA satisfied itself that the contractor was suitable to perform the works”.

Stephenson noted that at the time of the recommendation, Bloomfield had a longstanding professional relationship with Aiken who was employed as his personal accountant.

The Integrity Commission urged the NWA to establish a formal policy regarding the independent evaluation of all recommended contractors and implement measures to ensure its careful enforcement.

The anti-corruption oversight body also recommended that MPs refrain from recommending individuals and or entities which they share personal or professional relationships for the award of government contracts.

The director of investigation said his recommendation was based on Section 4.2.1 of the procurement handbook, which requires that a public officer “shall take no part in either the decision-making process or the implementation of any contract where a relationship exists between the public officer and a contractor”.   

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