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Grange, McIntosh defend inappropriate spending claims

Published:Monday | January 11, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Mark Beckford, Staff Reporter

Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Olivia Grange is defending her ministry's role in a trip to Singapore last year, funded by the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JARIA), which cost $7.7 million.

It has been revealed that Grange's trip to Singapore was funded by monies accessed from the Private Sector Development Programme (PSDP).

The PSDP is a five-year technical assistance project funded jointly by the European Union, under the ninth European Development Fund, and the Government of Jamaica.

Grange, in justifying her role in the trip, said it brought several benefits to Jamaica.

As a result of the trip, allegations of misconduct are being levelled at former vice-chairman of the JARIA Howard McIntosh.

The former vice-chairman is accused by the organisation of planning a trip to Singapore last December 8 to 12 without the approval of the board.

McIntosh, who is well known in entertainment circles, has since offered his resignation to the board.

Subsequently, JARIA, a non-governmental and non-profit group, has said it wants a public apology from him.

The PSDP funds were earmarked for entertainment and market penetration.

Jamaica reportedly received a commitment for tracks at Stadium East to be repaired, as well as the prospect of having Jamaican music being used at the Youth Olympic games to be staged in Singapore.

At a special meeting convened last Monday at the New Kingston offices of Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI), members of JARIA took task with how the funds for the trip were released and who were allowed to go under the name of JARIA.

Under JARIA protocol, for funds to be released, there needs to be agreement and signatures from the chairman, the financial secretary and the company secretary. The Gleaner understands that McIntosh did not get this permission.

However, McIntosh has defended his actions, saying he did it in the interest of Jamaica's music. He said the board knew of his intentions, but he signed off on his own.

"It was tremendously positive, (it) opened opportunities and it allowed for participation in the Youth Olympics and other events," he said.

Charles Campbell, a director of JARIA, said McIntosh's actions were a breach of the internal guidelines and policy of JARIA.

Meanwhile, in an interview with The Gleaner, Grange said she and her delegation had passed all the criteria set by JTI to qualify for the trip, which included them being members of JARIA.

While underscoring the need for the promotion of culture, Lisa Hanna, the opposition spokesperson on information, youth and culture, said the incident was unfortunate.

"When you are acting as a public servant, you have to be aware that you are not acting on behalf of yourself and so the details must be adhered to when your are spending money. You have to be on top of your management practices," Hanna said.

The Singapore spree is one of two major issues Grange's ministry has had to grapple with in recent days.

On Wednesday, the entire Hugh Nash-led Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) board resigned to facilitate what the ministry said was restructuring.

Hanna said she was waiting to hear details of what triggered the resignations as well as the restructuring plans of the JCDC.