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JDIP audit says Wong wilted under pressure

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, October 05, 2012    

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THE forensic audit on the management of the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP) says former CEO of the National Works Agency (NWA) Patrick Wong may have wilted under pressure from stakeholders, including MPs and parish councils, in spending on the US$400-million programme.

The executive summary of the 70-page audit stated that after coming under tremendous influence from members of Parliament, parish councils, municipal councils, and others, collectively referred to as "stakeholders", to undertake road maintenance and repairs following Tropical Storm Nicole, Wong chose to ignore the budget in favour of meeting the stakeholders' demands, resulting in JDIP expenditure of approximately US$20 million and US$75 over budget in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

This led to a temporary shutdown of most JDIP projects in August 2011, due to lack of funds to pay those undertaking the work.

"The JDIP contract, which originally allocated more than 70 per cent of the US$400 million available for the upgrading of road infrastructure, evolved into a fund primarily used for road maintenance and repair. The NWA did not have procedures and processes in place to adequately plan and monitor JDIP. Procedures used by the NWA in the past, although possibly adequate for individual projects, were inadequate for the multiple projects used for road maintenance by JDIP throughout Jamaica," the audit report said.

The report also stated that while the use of sole source procurement in awarding the contract to China Harbour (CHEC) triggered concerns about government being deprived of value for money and maintaining transparency and fairness in the process, the NWA was still able to negotiate the best possible prices, as the pricing of individual JDIP projects were not included in the contract.

The audit also found that the NWA used US$20 million ($1.7 billion) of JDIP funds to complete projects which were implemented prior to JDIP, or to pay for projects already completed, but for which no funds had been made available, which affected the NWA's ability to take on new projects under JDIP.

The selection of JDIP projects changed significantly from the original 19 projects listed in the JDIP contract to a master list of over 1,000 potential projects. However, the NWA was unable to provide documents on the selection criteria.

The report also noted that Wong's son, Russell, was engaged as a consultant by CHEC to provide legal services during the same period that his father was the NWA CEO. It added that Patrick Wong provided assistance to Russell Wong in preparing Russell's contract with CHEC, but found no evidence of a direct conflict of interest, although there was a perception of a conflict.

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