DIRECTOR of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn has recommended that the Office of the Cabinet, through its secretary, comply with the requisitions of the Office of the Contractor General (OCG).
At the same time, the DPP said the Cabinet office should state its reasons for non-compliance in accordance with Section 19 of the Contractor General's Act, and that the Attorney General's Department, the Cabinet or the OCG use the appropriate channels to have the court decide if "The Cabinet of Jamaica has the unfettered power to choose not to grant approval for disclosure of its documents without providing a reason, particularly in instances where the OCG requires the information for the good management of the affairs of Jamaica".
The DPP's legal opinion followed a formal referral from the OCG, on January 2, pertaining to the Cabinet's failure to comply with its requisitions.
The OCG, on April 25, 2012, wrote to Cabinet Secretary Ambassador Douglas Saunders requesting Cabinet submissions and decisions pertaining to the approval for the continuation of the North South Link of Highway 2000; the approval of the Gordon Cay Container Transshipment Hub; and the approval for the establishment of a panel to oversee the award of Government contracts.
The OCG's Craig Beresford, in his correspondence, explained that, given certain information within the public domain concerning the approvals, he sought the perusal of these documents "to clarify certain assertions which have alluded to, inter alia, the existence, consideration and granting of Cabinet submissions, decisions and recommendations".
Again, on July 2, 2012, the OCG, through Beresford, wrote to the cabinet secretary requesting a copy of Cabinet submissions and decisions with respect to the extension of the operating agreement with Blue Diamond Hotels and Resorts Inc — Braco Resorts Hotel, Trelawny.
In another request on July 26, 2012, the OCG requested a copy of Cabinet submissions and decisions regarding the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Project.
The DPP noted yesterday that in each request Beresford grounded his authority to require the information under Section 4 of the Contractor General's Act. However, the Cabinet Office requested several extensions of the initial deadline, indicating on each occasion that the Cabinet was awaiting the advice of the attorney general. The cabinet office also indicated in some of its correspondence to the OCG that the release of Cabinet documents required the approval of Cabinet.
In correspondence to the OCG on August 31, 2012, the cabinet secretary indicated that the Attorney General's Chambers advised that:
"... The Supreme Court was asked to interpret certain parts of the statute governing the Office of the Contractor General in "Minister of Works vs The Contractor General" and that the court's ruling in that matter would impact the advice to the Cabinet concerning the OCG's requisitions for Cabinet documents.
The OCG subsequently sought legal opinion in respect of its powers to require answers in respect of requisitions directed to the cabinet office and was advised that the minister, cabinet secretary, and all public bodies were, by law, obligated to respond to the requisitions of the contractor general. A copy of this opinion was forwarded to the cabinet secretary, prime minister and several other government officials on November 19, 2012.
However, the Attorney General's Department, on November 20, 2012, wrote to the OCG advising the office to await the outcome of a court ruling concerning the approval for the establishment of an oversight panel to oversee the award of Government contracts.
The court's decision, which was favourable to the OCG, was delivered on February 1, 2013 by Justice Lennox Campbell, but the office of the cabinet has still not responded to the requisitions of the OCG, neither has it advised the OCG how the court's judgement has influenced its position concerning the OCG's requisitions for Cabinet documents.