Two reports tabled by the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) in Parliament yesterday have raised concerns from both the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) about appropriate behaviour by Government ministers.
The reports concern the OCG's investigations into the construction of wooden shops at the Spalding Market in Clarendon; and the process of selecting the preferred bidder for the energy project to supply 360 megawatts of power to island's grid.
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness said at a hurriedly called press briefing in the Opposition's conference room at Gordon House following the sitting of the House of Representatives, that the prime minister must now send a clear message to the country as to what she will or will not tolerate from her ministers.
The Spalding Market issue implicates junior minister in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing Richard Azan in the unauthorised construction and renting of shops at the market; while the 360-megawatt issue concerns Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell's and the Office of Utilities Regulation's (OUR's) involvement with the process of selecting a preferred bidder for the construction of the energy plant.
"The prime minister must send a clear signal that she will not tolerate her ministers acting beyond the boundaries of what is expected by the public," Holness declared, adding that the use of the word "corruption" in the reports requires her to act in a very decisive way.
Opposition spokesman on local government Desmond McKenzie also called on the prime minister to take "decisive action immediately" against both Azan and the May Pen Mayor Scean Barnswell, for their roles on the illegal construction of the shops.
McKenzie said that the JLP wanted the immediate resignation of both Azan and Barnswell.
"We have seen too many infringements by this Administration, and it becomes a nine-day wonder. We are not going to allow this to become a nine-day wonder," the Opposition spokesman insisted.
The PSOJ, in a release after the report on the 360-megawatt plant was tabled, said that in light of the OCG's finding that the process of selecting a preferred bidder for the plant was "handled inappropriately", the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Jamaica Manufacturers' Association and PSOJ were calling for a detailed response from the Government prior to an announcement of the preferred bidder by the OUR.
"The group believes that this selection process has been surrounded by too many unanswered questions and concerns, and is calling for the OUR to delay the announcement of the selected bidder until the cloud resulting from the OCG's report has been cleared," the release said.
Holness also raised the issue of the announcement of the preferred bidder, which Paulwell is expected to make later this week.
"Indeed, the report finds that the actions of the minister were irregular, and I think the prime minister has a duty in this matter to act. Later in the week, the minister is to announce which firm will be the preferred bidder to build the plant, but this report will certainly cast doubts on the process," Holness said.
"It is important that the Government uses its best judgement in selecting a bidder that doesn't only presents a good case, but also has the wherewithal, technically and financially, to actually build and deliver the plant," he stated.
Holness also questioned the consummation of the process, without the appointment of a new director general of the OUR since March.
"This leads us to question, how can the Government make such an important decision without having someone who is protected by contract and employed to the OUR as director general to oversee the process.
Holness said that the JLP is concerned that the minister "may have exercised undue influence on the process".