Wed | Jul 17, 2019

PNP demanding Commissions of Inquiry into government scandals

Published:Thursday | July 11, 2019 | 12:10 PM
PNP president Dr Peter Phillips holds a letter outlining demands on crime and corruption from the government. The letter was delivered to the Office of the Prime Minister in St Andrew on July 11, 2019.

The Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) is demanding that the government set up Commissions of Inquiry into irregularities uncovered at the Ministries of Education and Energy and their relevant agencies.

Those entities have been dogged by allegations of nepotism, corruption, and mismanagement.

Also, the opposition wants a commission established to look into the controversial sale of the Rooms on the Beach property in St Ann.

An Office of the Contractor General report into the deal slammed the government after it was found that the US$13.5-million property was sold for US$7.2 million.

The company also walked away with the Moon Palace beach, valued at US$3.5 million, for free.

READ: Free beach - Vaz, gov’t, UDC fingered in J$1.3b resort property giveaways

The Commissions of Inquiry are among demands made by the PNP in a letter delivered by way of a march from Half Way Tree to the Office of the Prime Minister in St Andrew this morning.

In the letter, PNP said it is concerned about acts of crime and violence across the island and accused the government of failing to present a comprehensive plan to tackle the problem.

The party also said that it is concerned about the “endemic situation” of corruption in government.

That’s why it says it is demanding action from the government.

PNP Demands

* That all agencies and commissions which have a role in fighting and investigating corruption, including MOCA, FID, the Police, the Auditor General’s Department and the National Integrity Commission, be allowed by the Government to discharge their functions and duties effectively and impartially in relation to the unresolved matters. Neither you nor any member of your Administration must place any impediment in their way.

* That the Government cooperates with the Parliamentary Opposition in convening the relevant Parliamentary Oversight Committee during the course of next week to review and recommend changes, where necessary, to make the operations and functioning of the National Integrity Commission more effective.

* That given the unprecedented number of instances of corrupt or irregular conduct of and within the Government and what appears to be an endemic situation, Commissions of Inquiry be established forthwith to enquire into the scandals relating to the Ministries of Education and Energy and their relevant agencies and to the UDC and the Rooms on the Beach transaction.        

* That in keeping with your promise in the last general election campaign and to provide some assurance to our people about their sustained safety, the Government immediately presents to the country, the outline of a crime control plan which embodies a strategic and programmatic approach to implementing initiatives required in the fight against crime and violence and the expected outcomes.

Full Letter

I have as Leader of the Opposition and as President of the People’s National Party written to you on various occasions and have expressed concerns about a number of issues of national importance.  These include the major issues of the unacceptable levels of crime and violence across the island and the unprecedented numerous instances of irregularities and corruption scandals occurring within your Administration.

The ineffective responses and in some instances your silence as Head of Government, have created serious concerns, despair and frustration among citizens, including members of the PNP.  This has resulted in the massive protests occurring today.

Jamaicans are distressed and afraid because of the daily wanton acts of crime and violence.  The Government has failed to present a crime control plan with a strategic and programmatic approach to the implementation of creative solutions and expected outcomes. The Government’s continuing use of States of Emergency is simply not working or sustainable as a crime fighting measure.

An overwhelming majority of Jamaicans are disturbed and upset about the many instances of plundering of taxpayers’ money, which are being uncovered in rapid succession in various government Ministries and agencies, since the advent of your Administration and continuing.  In the three and a half years of your Administration, we have seen the following:

* The $800 million de-bushing scandal where the Contractor General found that the selection of contractors lacked transparency and accountability and a corruption-enabling mechanism was used to make payments.

* The $240 million Police used cars scandal, which is not yet resolved.

*The Firearm Licensing Authority Scandal.

*The $17 M Welcome sign in Montego Bay.

*The Stolen Funds at Dunn’s River Falls Scandal.

*The Misuse of funds at the Students’ Loan Bureau.

*The Petrojam scandal involving:
- Oil losses amounting to billions of dollars
- Directors reimbursed millions of dollars for travel, not taken
- Nepotism in the hiring of staff
- The breach of the procurement rules, resulting in overspending – nearly $100 million for a wall that was initially estimated to cost $29 million
- Spending on a US$1000 cake for the portfolio Minister
- An employee with political connections terminated with a “golden handshake” of millions of taxpayers’ money, despite her poor performance

*The National Energy Solutions (NESoL) scandal - $35 million found under the bed of an employee of NESoL and questionable contracts granted.

* The Universal Service Fund (USF) scandal.

* The various scandals still being unearthed in the Ministry of Education and its agencies.

* The Caribbean Maritime University ongoing scandal.

* The Bernard Lodge lands scandal where over 200 small farmers occupying the lands for over a decade, many with lease agreements, were told to move as the lands had been divested, apparently in breach of the land divestment policy.

* The Rooms on the Beach scandal involving the divestment of property in breach of procurement guidelines, and based on the Contractor General’s report, the sale price being agreed by Ministers, resulting in the property which was in demand, being sold for 47% of its value, and US$6.3 million, just short of $1 Billion Jamaican dollars, less than its value.

* The National Insurance Fund scandal relating to irregularities involving $600 million.

Citizens are equally concerned that no punitive action has been taken in any of these matters by any of the agencies tasked with investigating or pursuing sanctions against corruption and corrupt conduct.  It would appear that the entire anti-corruption architecture in the country has broken down and is not functioning as intended.  It has actually been suggested by some persons that this failure is deliberate.

Having regard to the unacceptable state of affairs outlined above, the PNP on behalf of all concerned Jamaicans, makes the following demands:

That all agencies and commissions which have a role in fighting and investigating corruption, including MOCA, FID, the Police, the Auditor General’s Department and the National Integrity Commission, be allowed by the Government to discharge their functions and duties effectively and impartially in relation to the unresolved matters. Neither you nor any member of your Administration must place any impediment in their way.

That the Government cooperates with the Parliamentary Opposition in convening the relevant Parliamentary Oversight Committee during the course of next week to review and recommend changes, where necessary, to make the operations and functioning of the National Integrity Commission more effective.

That given the unprecedented number of instances of corrupt or irregular conduct of and within the Government and what appears to be an endemic situation, Commissions of Inquiry be established forthwith to enquire into the scandals relating to the Ministries of Education and Energy and their relevant agencies and to the UDC and the Rooms on the Beach transaction.        

That in keeping with your promise in the last general election campaign and to provide some assurance to our people about their sustained safety, the Government immediately presents to the country, the outline of a crime control plan which embodies a strategic and programmatic approach to implementing initiatives required in the fight against crime and violence and the expected outcomes.

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