Evidence is in the procedure, Minister McKenzie

Letters to the Editor

Evidence is in the procedure, Minister McKenzie

Friday, February 28, 2020

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Dear Editor,

I was listening to a popular radio programme while driving home from my office on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 and heard the moderator interviewing Members of Parliament Peter Bunting and Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn about the day's Public Accounts Committee meeting that highlighted the issue surrounding the rental of offices for the Ministry of Local Government, and whatever else they do.

There seems to be some unassailable facts and these are:

1. The building was leased under a five-year contract.

2. The tenant did not occupy the premises for at least one year of the contract.

3. The rental cost for that year was over $132 million of Jamaican taxpayers' monies.

4. The building was not ready for occupancy and therefore a contract was given out to renovate the space.

5. The cost of the contract started at $50 million but ended up over $80 million of the people's money.

6. Instead of competitive bidding, a trigger was used based on some 21-day contract period but the project ended running for over one year.

7. The owners of the property, including Lyttleton Shirley, who is chairman of the Kingston Free Zone, vice-chairman of the Health for Life and Wellness Foundation, Ministry of Health, and is a director of the Port Authority of Jamaica.

8. The permanent secretary who was in charge at the time the lease was made is no longer in charge at the ministry

9. National Land Agency (NLA) had recommended a lower lease cost per square, but the lease was signed for a higher cost.

10. The NLA had recommended that since they were signing for a higher cost then there should be no increase in the lease over the five-year period; however, the lease agreement included increases.

The moderator of the programme, after hearing Bunting's information, asked Cuthbert-Flynn for her take on the matter seeing that the $130-plus million could have been used to fix the bad roads in her constituency. She was at pains not to lay the blame squarely at the feet of the Government that she represents only to say that they are doing an investigation. Investigation into what?

Then, Minster of Local Government Desmond McKenzie was called in for his take on the events on this affair and he quickly intimated that there was no evidence of political interference and anyone who had any must put or shut up.

The evidence lies in the very procedure of going against the career civil servants at the NLA, Minister. They recommended a lower lease fee and terms which the ministry you head went against.

Many criminals are not sent to prison because someone showed the court a video of them committing an act, it was the evidence in procedure and otherwise that caused the conviction.

My Jamaican people, we need to look at third parties in this balancing act called governance as we have seen since 1962 how the middle to upper classes are the main beneficiaries in the island we call home.

Mark Trought

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