Thu | Mar 30, 2023

No Gov't response to Christie

Published:Sunday | April 29, 2012 | 12:00 AM

There is no response yet from the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration to the broadside aimed at it by Contractor General Greg Christie last Friday.

In a scathing attack on the government's decision to establish a three man oversight panel to monitor three major projects, Christie argued that this was, "a brazen but, as will be seen, a futile attempt to usurp, undermine and circumvent the lawful government contract monitoring authority and mandate of the OCG (Office of the Contractor General)".

Christie also warned of possible criminal proceedings against the 'three wise men' who have agreed to sit on an oversight panel set up by Cabinet to monitor three major projects.

The body is to be chaired by Professor Gordon Shirley, principal and pro-vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Mona. He is to be joined by businessman R. Danny Williams, and Everton McDonald, a retired territory senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

According to Christie, the establishment of the panel "is simply an attempt to bypass the scrutiny of the OCG, and to sanitise the government's contracting actions, while presenting a public façade of transparency, value for money and accountability in selected government contracting processes."

"It is the OCG's considered view that they are likely to place themselves, as well as their hard-earned integrity, at possible risk should their interventions be construed as a criminal obstruction of the Contractor General under Section 29 (b) of the Contractor General Act," the OCG said.

best practices

The OCG has suggested that the administration disband the panel, "and to publicly affirm its unbridled commitment to not only internationally accepted best practices in public procurement oversight, but also to systems of accountability and open government, and to faithfully comply with the existing laws and regulations of the country, even as it pursues national economic development opportunities for Jamaica."

In a statement to Parliament on Tuesday, the Minister of Transport, Works and Housing Dr Omar Davies announced that the Government would be pressing along with negotiations which could lead to the completion of the north-south link of Highway 2000; the Gordon Cay Container Transhipment hub, and the Fort Augusta Container Terminal.

But the OCG said it considers the actions of the administration "to be not only unlawful, but to be dangerous, unprecedented and ominous".

In the meantime, the OCG expressed doubt that Shirley-led panel has the capacity to deal with anti-corruption matters.

He said unlike the OCG, which is a 60-person professionally staffed national Anti-Corruption Commission, "the panel has neither the resources, nor the required professional competencies, knowledge or skill-sets, to satisfactorily fulfil the specialised government contract monitoring and implementation mandate that has been illegitimately assigned to it by the executive arm of the State.

This administration also recognises the right and obligation of Cabinet to take decisions which will redound to the benefit of the country."

On Tuesday, Davies said "It is imperative that the OCG and any other office be aware of economic opportunities," noting that Jamaica could lose investments.

"This is a hard, cruel world. Nobody is out there waiting to do us a favour and you can't tell the people of Jamaica that we missed the opportunity of garnering investments in excess of $1 billion because we were awaiting a ruling," Davies said.