Henry resigns

Gives ongoing attacks on JDIP as reason for quitting Cabinet

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

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MIKE Henry last night resigned as Transport and Works Minister with immediate effect amidst swirling controversy over the troubled Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP) which was the focus of yesterday’s sitting of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

In a late-night statement, Henry said he had tendered his resignation in light of the ongoing attacks on the JDIP, “which continue despite the prime minister and I having acted to address the issue”.

He said that as the line minister, he has taken full responsibility for the issues which have arisen.

“There is nothing to hide about my stewardship of the JDIP, which is very important to the country, and I look forward to the conclusion of the ongoing investigations,” Henry said.

His reference was to a review of the road rehabilitation programme ordered by Prime Minister Andrew Holness after Patrick Wong was cashiered on November 19 as CEO of the National Works Agency (NWA), which has responsibility for the US$400-million JDIP.

In addition to sacking Wong, Holness had also stripped Henry of all responsibilities for the JDIP and had taken temporary charge of the programme.

“Prime Minister Andrew Holness has taken temporary control of the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP) with a view to reviewing and improving the operating, accounting, reporting and general management structures of the project,” a news release from the Office of the Prime Minister had stated on November 19. It also made it clear that no new work orders would be issued for works which had not already been approved and funded.

“The services of an independent consulting firm are being procured to provide oversight and quality assurance to determine value for money. The independent consultant will operate from the Office of the Prime Minister and provide technical advice on project prioritisation, evaluate the various work activities, review payment certificates and work orders, as well as provide project management oversight of JDIP,” the release added.

Holness acted after Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis tabled a special report on the programme in Parliament on November 15 in which she stated that the Ministry of Transport and Works, the NWA and the Road Maintenance Fund had not executed the programme in a transparent manner.

“This is evidenced by inadequate capital project planning, monitoring and record keeping,” Monroe Ellis said. “The deficiencies highlighted in this report threaten the Government’s objective to achieve its goal to improve the country’s road infrastructure under the Preferential Buyers Credit Facility with the Chinese Ex-Im Bank.”

In one of her findings, Monroe Ellis said contrary to the provisions of the Government’s procurement guidelines, the NWA used the sole source method to award a contract to China Harbour Engineering Company for approximately $102 million to refurbish its corporate offices, without the required approval of the National Contracts Commission.

That issue was raised yesterday at the PAC which also heard that five 40-foot containers of furniture valued at $62 million were discovered by Contractor General Greg Christie yesterday on the premises of the NWA and that they had been procured using funds allocated for the Palisadoes Shoreline Protection and Rehabilitation Works Project. (See related story headlined ‘Rogue agency’).

Last night, a highly placed Government source said that Henry was not pushed to resign.

“He was the man in charge of the programme, and so the buck stopped with him,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

According to the source, Henry tendered his resignation during “an informal meeting” of some members of the Cabinet at Vale Royal, the official residence of the prime minister.

“This is a demonstration of the new standard of governance being preached by the prime minister — that is, taking responsibility and adhering to the principle of transparency,” the source added.

Henry, in his statement, thanked the persons who supported him over the years in which he served in the Cabinet, especially his constituents in Central Clarendon, and from where, he said, he “will be focussing more of my energy at this time”.

Related article:

'Rogue agency' - Phillips blasts NWA 


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