Phillips calls for probe of farm road rehabilitation programme

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Phillips calls for probe of farm road rehabilitation programme

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Opposition leader, Dr Peter Phillips has called on the Auditor General to conduct a full financial audit of the Rehabilitation of Farm Roads Programme undertaken by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).

According to Phillips, the overall budgetary provision for farm roads islandwide was approximately $470 million for 2017-2018, but, in St Thomas alone, total contracts were prepared in the amount of $1.6 billion in that same year for bushing only.

He further stated that investigations by members of his party revealed that the job rates in RADA contracts were disproportionate with the rates being paid by the National Works Agency (NWA) for the same work.

Phillips said that bushing contracts were being done at a rate $10,380,000 per kilometre under the RADA farm road programme in contrast to NWA's rate of $150,000 per kilometre for bushing, reflecting a difference of over 6,000 per cent.

The Opposition leader said he can confirm at least two instances where bushing was paid for at this scandalous rate and his party has submitted the evidence to the Auditor General.

Phillips said his party's concern about diversion of funds and the overall mismanagement of the programme came about after the Auditor General's report to Parliament in October, which he said pointed out, among other findings:

• Abandonment of procurement and oversight practices which led to negative consequences in value for money.

• Absence of transparency in the selection process.

• The failure to provide specifications and scope of work in the contracts limited the ability to measure against the contracts and hold contractors accountable and liable.

“On the face of it, these breaches point to a serious pattern of misuse of public funds,” Phillips said.

“Additionally, based on investigations by the Opposition Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Victor Wright, it would appear that these procedures and breaches were designed specifically to facilitate a scandalous misuse of public funds of massive proportions,” he added.

Phillips is now calling for an audit, which he said should include: the payment of funds, who received funds for the work that was done, and to find those culpable.

He also called on the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) to undertake a thorough Forensic Investigation of what he called “a massive scheme to steal public funds”.

In addition, the Opposition leader said Prime Minister Andrew Holness, should relieve Ministers Audley Shaw and JC Hutchinson, who have portfolio responsibilities for RADA, of their duties until the investigations are complete. He also called for the authority's Board of Management to step aside in the interest of such investigation.

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