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Davies: JDIP audit shows unauthorised use of funds

JDIP audit goes to OCG

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, October 03, 2012    

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THE Auditor General's Department and the Office of the Contractor General will have the final say on what may result from the report of the forensic audit of the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP).

Minister of Transport and Works Dr Omar Davies said yesterday that he was not in a position to say whether there would be any criminal charges, and that what follows will be left to the two government agencies.

Dr Davies was answering questions from Opposition Leader Andrew Holness after making a statement to the House of Representatives on the report of the audit, which was initiated by the previous Government. The audit was triggered by criticisms of the handling of the US$400-million China-funded programme, which involved approximately 1,000 infrastructural programmes. Criticisms by the then People's National Party Opposition of the handling of JDIP funds last year led to the resignation of both Mike Henry as transport and works minister and Patrick Wong, then chief executive officer of National Works Agency (NWA).

Based on Dr Davies' statement to the House, the report — which was not tabled in the House — focused on the NWA and Wong as the main characters in the episode, which also involved the US$65-million Palisadoes Shoreline Protection and Rehablitation Works that is ongoing.

The statement dealt with six issues arising from the report: project design; unauthorised use of JDIP funds in payment for project work; non-adherence to allocations approved by Parliament and the Ministry of Finance and Planning; arbitrary issuance of variation orders; arbitrary selection of sub-contractors; and unprogrammed and arbitrary allocation of funds for institutional strengthening.

Opposition spokesman on transport and works, Karl Samuda, said that the report did not indicate any fiduciary irresponsibility on the part of the previous Administration. He also dismissed the minister's criticism of the expansion of the programme from an original nine to approximately 1,000 projects as a natural development in planning such programmes. Holness, meanwhile, said that the expansion was approved by Cabinet.

Samuda noted that US$60 million of the original JDIP budget was turned over to the current Government, and is being utilised in a further fragmentation of JDIP, including financing the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme.

He said said that the the Ministry of Transport and Works, under the previous Jamaica Labour Party Administration, had inherited a situation "woefully short" of proper infrastructure and might have tried to do too much too quickly to correct the situation.

But, Davies insisted that there was "wanton disregard" for the conventions and procedures established by the Government for project implementation, administration and management.

"These breaches of existing procurement guidelines have drained precious budgetary resources and undermined the very foundation of institutional integrity," Dr Davies said.

He assured the House that necessary steps were being taken to restore and rebuild integrity to this aspect of public administration, and that his ministry had commenced actions to address the findings of the report, including appointing a team to undertake a full review of the weaknesses cited in the report.

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