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Angry contractors tackle OCG on Thursday

Monday, August 20, 2012 | 8:00 AM    

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KINGSTON, Jamaica  - The Office of the Contractor General (OCG) and local contractors who have accused the OCG of delaying approvals by the National Contracts Commission (NCC), are to meet Thursday morning.

The meeting is scheduled for 10:00am at the OCG, inside the PIOJ building, Oxford Road, Kingston.

 However, the OCG will be meeting with more than just representatives of the Jamaica Association of Contractors and Consultants (JAC) as, since last week, the protesting contractors have been joined by members of the Incorporated Master Builders Association of Jamaica (IMAJ) and the Medium, Small and Micro Enterprise (MSME) Alliance.

They are protesting against what they have listed as: the inadequacy of the existing policy framework to assist local contractors; the “onerous” registration and re-registration process; and the inappropriate criteria for grading contractors.

According to JAC chairperson, Percival laTouche, “these concerns have created tremendous hardships for local contractors over the past few years'.

He added that the situation has worsened with the weakened economy which has reduced opportunities for private sector contracts.

LaTouche said that the IMAJ and the MSME Alliance have teamed with JAC for a comprehensive approach to addressing their concerns, and expect that the Ministry of Finance and Planning and the NCC will also be represented at the meeting, at the highest level.

According to senior director at the OCG, Craig Beresford, it is anticipated that the meeting will, among other things, serve to fully inform the contractors of: the respective roles and responsibilities of the NCC and the OCG; the NCC's registration and re-registration requirements; and the NCC's de-registration criteria.

The dispute was triggered by a release from the JAC, following a meeting in Kingston on Saturday, July 28, which noted its “dissatisfaction with the inordinate delay being experienced by Government contractors in re-registration with the National Contracts Committee (NCC)”.

“The current delay, of sometimes more than three years, on the part of the OCG in making a decision as to whether or not an application for re-registration should be approved, is extremely unfair to the members of the association, considering that the penalty for an expired registration is immediate delisting,” the JAC said.

The contractors said they were suffering extreme hardships while awaiting approval of their application, and were forced to lay-off employees and dishonour debt payments, while enduring the stress and strain the situation places on them and their families. They explained that, while they recognise the responsibility of the Contractor-General to ensure fairness and transparency in the awarding of government contracts, they would take all legal steps necessary to ensure that the OCG observes the principles of natural justice in reviewing their applications.

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