Editorial

Minister Paulwell just doesn't get it

Thursday, May 01, 2014    

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ONE of the points we raised in this column yesterday was that of taking responsibility for actions and outcomes. The ideal, we noted, was not the norm here in Jamaica.

We return to the subject today on the basis of Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell's statements to journalists at Gordon House on Tuesday in reaction to a decision by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) regarding the 381-megawatt energy plant.

The IDB, in turning down Energy World International's (EWI's) request for funds to post a performance bond on the project, said it had a difficulty with the process by which EWI was selected for the project.

Minister Paulwell, in his interview with the press on Tuesday, described the IDB's position as "a damnation" on Jamaica.

"I believe that if we are patriotic, we must see what has happened with the IDB as a damnation on our country, and the OCG (Office of the Contractor General) and the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) and myself must try to rectify that," Minister Paulwell said.

He went further: "For the IDB to say that they have a difficulty with the process, that is not an indictment on EWI, that is an indictment on the country, our country... If the IDB is saying that the rules of procurement that have thrown up EWI as the second preferred bidder, if that is flawed, then everything else must be in question."

Now, Minister Paulwell is either being disingenuous or he just hasn't grasped the point that his action in relation to EWI's entry in the bid process is really the issue here.

Readers will recall that Contractor General Dirk Harrison, in a report to Parliament last September, said that EWI was being improperly facilitated by Minister Paulwell in the bidding process.

The contractor general described the minister's intervention and acceptance of the bid from EWI as unfair and said it compromised the integrity of the process, given that EWI entered the process after bids had been closed, and its application went to Mr Paulwell's ministry on its way to the OUR.

"Based upon the documentary evidence which was reviewed, it is clear that the 'goal post' kept moving to facilitate EWI's proposal and that the process in its current form could not stand up to review," Mr Harrison wrote in his report.

Readers should recall, as well that Mr Paulwell responded to the contractor general's findings by stating that: "We cannot have the OCG derailing this matter again. It has to go forward."

The point, Minister Paulwell, is that the process became flawed when you intervened. You should therefore not be surprised by the IDB's response, neither should you try to pass the blame off to the OCG and, worse, the country.

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