Several issues coming from Spaldings Market probe - OCG
Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
THE OFFICE of the Contractor General is reporting that the intensive probe into State Minister Richard Azan's involvement in the Spaldings Market debacle has "mushroomed into several issues of governance, accountability and fiduciary matters".
Responding to a flood of queries about the status of the OCG's investigation into the matter, the Dirk Harrison-led oversight body reported yesterday that it was well advanced in its probe.
However, the contract watchdog cautioned those groups calling for a swift investigation into the Spaldings Market issue, noting that the OCG's work required detailed examination before any conclusions could be drawn.
Late last year, The Gleaner broke the story that Azan gave permission to a contractor to construct 10 shops at the Spaldings Market without the permission and or approval of the Clarendon Parish Council.
A staff member at his constituency office reportedly collected the rent on the contractor's behalf.
In a media release, Harrison said the "OCG wishes to assure the public that it has been working assiduously to complete the referenced report, while simultaneously pursuing a number of other investigations and contract monitoring activities, concerning matters which are pertinent to the discharge of its mandate".
A former senior deputy director of public prosecutions, Harrison said he has made certain important changes to the approach and methodology of OCG statutory investigations. Highlighting a specific change, Harrison said his office has now instituted Section 18 Judicial Proceedings which requires the attendance and examination of witnesses in a quasi-court setting.
Giving an update on the investigation, the oversight body said it has undertaken more than 12 field interviews and statement collection sessions and conducted approximately 17 Section 18 judicial hearings over the last two months.
Additionally, he said the OCG has carried out multiple site visits, sequestered several pieces of pertinent documentary evidence and issued a number of requisitions.
"Whilst the OCG strives for a speedy conclusion of this and other matters, it is very important that the greatest level of diligence be exercised and fairness is afforded to all parties concerned," Harrison asserted.
With mounting calls for the resignation of Azan earlier this year, the Cabinet made the decision to retain the embattled state minister, pending the findings of the report from the OCG.