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A JLP Gov’t would have reprimanded Paulwell by now — Holness

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, May 02, 2014    

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IF Energy Minister Philip Paulwell was a member of a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Cabinet he would have been reprimanded by now for his role in the fiasco currently associated with the 381 MW energy plant.

"The project would no longer be under his supervision, that's number one" Opposition Leader Andrew Holness told a sitting of the Jamaica Observer Press Club yesterday.

"He would have to give me in writing what he meant by bringing to Cabinet a submission to include the minister in procurement; he would certainly be reprimanded for bringing any influence to bear on the contractor general; and he would have had to be explaining to us the glaring differences in the licences," Holness stated.

The opposition leader said that Paulwell's future as the minister would then depend on the explanations he provided for his actions.

Holness made the responses to questions about what actions he would take, as prime minister, in any case similar to the controversial process of construction the 381 MW plant.

He was accompanied by JLP spokesman on finance Audley Shaw; housing, water and infrastructure development spokesman Dr Horace Chang; and spokeswoman on information, youth and culture, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange.

Holness wrote Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller on Wednesday urging her to step in on the controversy raging around the process of developing the energy plant, which is planned to reduce energy costs.

He said that significant damage had been done and the prime minister needed to restore the integrity of the process, and reassure the nation that all is not lost.

But even as Holness awaited an answer from the prime minister, two prominent members of the watchdog Energy Monitoring Committee resigned yesterday. Horace Levy and Carol Narcisse, both representatives of the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC), said that they were alarmed at the state of affairs culminating from a wholly unacceptable procurement process for the energy plant.

They said that, in light of the circumstances, the JCSC was immediately withdrawing its members from the committee, pending a satisfactory overhaul of the process.

"Our objections have been long-standing. It is the unacceptable process that has brought Jamaica into disrepute and not the legitimate criticisms of the OCG (Office of the Contractor General), civil society or IDB (Inter-American Development Bank). The situation need not have come to this," they said.

The JCSC called for the current exercise to be aborted and a new, transparent and accountable process be put in place.

"While the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) cannot escape culpability for the evident mismanagement that has occurred, we recognise that its new director general has committed to and brought an improvement in transparency. In light of the urgent need to identify a cheaper energy solution, the JCSC would accept the process remaining with the OUR, on the condition that the competence of its advisory team is assessed and oversight strengthened," the JCSC said.

With respect to Minister Paulwell, the JCSC called for his immediate resignation. This was based on his role in what the coalition said was "the improper insertion of EWI after the close of the OUR's deadline, his unilateral changes to the licence recommended by the OUR resulting in the country's further exposure to risk, and the leeway which he has granted to EWI's payment of the Performance Bond".

The JCSC added that the Cabinet's lack of oversight to date is unacceptable, and that a full accounting needs to be given to the public.

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