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SCAMMED - Office of the Contractor-General uncovers massive NHT fraud; 18-year OCG veteran fired

Published:Thursday | January 7, 2010 | 12:00 AM

File photos

LEFT: National Housing Trust head office on Park Boulevard, New Kingston.

RIGHT: Contractor General Greg Christie.

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

Contractor General Gregg Christie yesterday revealed that his office had uncovered an elaborate criminal conspiracy involving a group of sham contractors, exploiting the National Housing Trust (NHT).

In releasing the bombshell, Christie revealed that some of his staff are likely to be involved in the racket, forcing him to clean house.

The probe has also implicated several NHT employees, while others are being treated as persons of interest.

The name Rodney Chin, main witness in the Kern Spencer fraud trial, figured prominently in the Office of the Contractor General's (OCG) report.

The probe has reportedly uncovered a series of falsified documents that were made to the National Contracts Commission (NCC) to lure contracts their way.

The contractor general said the explosive discovery coincided with a threat on the life of the senior director leading the probe, by an anonymous telephone caller.

Christie said his team found that a contractor was the mastermind behind the creation of four fictitious contractors to secure NHT contracts.

The probe uncovered that one of the four was actually a full-time social studies schoolteacher at a prominent St Andrew-based high school, while another is an information technology specialist.

Four suspects

It is believed that the four suspected con artists are part of the elaborate scheme masterminded by a contractor to funnel contract awards from the NHT.

Christie said the investigation found that the contracts awarded in the names of the four were performed by the contractor, operating as the mastermind behind the scam.

The contractor general said his investigators found that joint bank accounts in the name of the fifth contractor were maintained with at least two of the sham contractors at the National Commercial Bank NCB's Knutsford Boulevard, New Kingston branch.

He believes that this was intended to facilitate Government contract payments in the names of the sham contractors.

Christie said the re-registration application for one of the sham contractors lists as the sole "full-time staff member" of the contractor's "professional" staff, a Mr Rodney Chin.

He revealed that the supporting documentation, which was submitted with the application, includes identification particulars and a copy of a Florida International University degree in civil engineering, which are identical to those contained in the OCG's records which relate to the principal of another, registered Government contractor, Chin's Construction Limited.

Christie revealed that at least two of the sham contractors claimed that they were approached by the fifth to act as shams.

The contractor general said the managing director of the fifth contractor is a church brother of one of the sham contractors and a neighbour of another.

Place of worship

According to Christie, one of the sham contractors claimed that discussions with the managing director of the fifth contractor, regarding the arrangement, took place at the Bethel Baptist Church in Half-Way Tree, where they both worship.

The contractor general said a full-time employed project manager of the NHT, who plays a significant role in recommending which contractors should receive NHT small project works contracts, had been formally listed as a full-time employee on the application documentation of the fifth contractor for the past four years.

He disclosed that two other full-time employees who are attached to the NHT's projects' department were also listed as full-time employees of two of the sham contractors.

The initial registration and subsequent re-registration application forms, which were submitted to the NCC by the five contractors, all contained falsified and fabricated information of varying degrees.

He said a former employee of the OCG who was asked to resign in April 2008, on suspicion of involvement in corrupt activities, appears to have colluded with the fifth contractor in preparing and/or processing all of the falsified applications.

A director of the OCG, who was previously an OCG inspector, was fired on Monday of this week after he was suspected of collusion.

The director reportedly admitted that he had falsified the Contractor Verification Forms for the four sham contractors.