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Holness wants PM to rein in Paulwell

Thursday, May 01, 2014    

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OPPOSITION Leader Andrew Holness yesterday urged Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to step in on the controversy raging around the process of developing a 381 MW energy plant to rationalise energy costs.

Holness told reporters at a brief press briefing inside his office at Gordon House, following the budget debate yesterday, that Simpson Miller must rein in Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell, following the latest disclosures relating to the energy plant.

"I think the PM should look at that very carefully, very seriously and rein in her minister," Holness told reporters.

"Some damage has been done [and], from my perspective, I think the prime minister needs to step in. The prime minister needs to restore the integrity of the process, and the prime minister needs to act decisively and quickly to reassure the nation that we have not lost the project," he added.

Holness explained that the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has been carefully reviewing the events of the past few days relating to the project.

"We have always maintained that this is an important national project. It is an important national goal to have an efficient energy sector and to have cheaper electricity. But what we have seen happened in the past few days is that the way in which the minister is handling the project places this national goal at risk," Holness said.

"Firstly, it is highly improper and irregular that a minister of government would publicly say that he would bring influence to bear, of whatever form, on an independent commission in the form of the Office of the Contractor General.

Holness also criticised Paulwell's suggestion that he will seek to bring to Cabinet a proposal for a defined role for the minister in the process of procurement.

"That is dangerous," Holness added. "I can't see any other interpretation than that the minister is saying that he wants political considerations, which is what the minister represents, to be brought into procurement."

He said that the JLP objected to the suggestion, and has found that it is indicative of the way in which the minister has been operating, by seeking to "break or skirt" the rules, which has placed in jeopardy the country's chances of accessing cheap energy.

Holness stated that the position taken by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), agreeing with the Office of the Contractor General that the process by which Energy World International (EWI) was chosen as the second preferred bidder was flawed, has sent shock waves throughout the financing community.

"Which makes it highly unlikely that any other funding agency will look at the project, seriously," he said.

He stated that the damage was not just to the energy sector, but was international, and sends a signal that Jamaica does not take competitive procurement seriously.

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