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Falconer clears air on vehicle purchases

Published:Thursday | March 22, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Minister with Responsibility for Information Sandrea Falconer has admitted that members of the former government did nothing wrong by purchasing the vehicles which had been assigned to them as they demitted office.

Falconer has also dismissed claims that members of the new government have been spending scarce state resources to purchase expensive new vehicles since the People's National Party's (PNP) victory at the polls last December.

With controversy brewing about the vehicles purchased with state funds for members of the Portia Simpson Miller administration, Falconer, backed by officials of the finance ministry, yesterday went on the offensive as she declared that no wild spending has taken place.

According to Falconer, only two members of the new administration, Dr Peter Phillips and Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, have received new vehicles, and these were purchased within the US$35,000 CIF guideline imposed by the finance ministry.

Falconer reported that nine members of the new administration drive their personal vehicles, while 14 have been assigned vehicles which have been around since the previous administration.

"In the sprit of full disclosure, I have here the pro-forma invoice and the two quotations that were received by the Ministry of Finance so that you can look at the two and to see, in fact, that there was no discount on it (the Audi A6 purchased for Phillips) ... and it is below the ceiling of US$35,000 that is accorded to government ministers," said Falconer.

No breaches

Initially, it had appeared that Falconer was blaming the previous Jamaica Labour Party government for the new vehicles purchased by the new administration as she noted that 10 former ministers bought the vehicles assigned to them after they were voted out of office in the 2011 general election.

But even as she presented journalists with the list of former ministers who bought the vehicles which were assigned to them, Falconer told The Gleaner that she was not accusing them of any wrongdoing.

"I have been told by the financial secretary that this is part of the rules, and if it is part of the rules, I'm not going to quarrel with that," said Falconer following the weekly Jamaica House media briefing.

Falconer's concession that the former ministers acted within the rules was welcome news for the opposition's information spokesman, Senator Arthur Williams, who is one of the 10 former ministers who bought the vehicles assigned to them.

"The rules provide that public servants, including politicians, can purchase the vehicles assigned to them after three years, and we acted within the rules," Williams told The Gleaner.

arthur.hall@gleanerjm.com