NWA unclear about role of persons in office refurbishing

NWA unclear about role of persons in office refurbishing

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

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ACTING Chief Executive Officer of the National Works Agency Earl Patterson says the entity is still not clear about the capacity in which several persons named as carrying out works under the $102-million refurbishing project for that office and the procurement of furniture valued at $62 million carried out their functions.

Some two weeks ago the country was set on its ear when Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis, in a special audit report, revealed that contrary to the provisions of the government procurement guidelines, the NWA used the sole source method to award a contract for approximately $102 million to refurbish its corporate offices without the required approval of the National Contracts Commission. Last week, a further stir was created after five 40-foot containers with furniture valued at $62 million was discovered by Contractor General Greg Christie on the premises of the NWA. The explanation from the agency was that the works and the furniture had come through funds allocated under the US$400-million Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP) for institutional strengthening and similar funds under the Palisadoes Shoreline Protection and Rehabilitation Works Project, also set aside for institutional strengthening.

Yesterday, Patterson, in a letter read into the records of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, confirmed that the firms Alfrasure Structures and Roofing Limited, Lewis and Blount Construction Developers Limited, Interior Town Design Limited and Stationary and Office Supplies Limited had been engaged by China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to carry out the works. CHEC is the entity contracted to execute the projects.

He was, however, unable to shed any light on the position of a J Robertson named on an official quotation from Stationery and Office Supplies for the sale of the furniture to the NWA.

"There was a report that there was a J Robertson to whom the goods were assigned. Is such a person principal of one of those companies, if not, could you indicate who are the principals of these companies. What is alleged in the public domain is that there is an issue that arises of connected persons. We know it is the subject of the Contractor General's considerations, but we are asking you if you can shed any light on it," committee chair Dr Peter Phillips queried.

Patterson, however, said that name had only come to his attention through newscasts and after the letter to the committee had been written. "What we are attempting to do at the moment is to establish factually who these people are with the companies that we have identified, what their exact role is. We have referred to them loosely as sub-contractors. I have not come into any possession to this point in time of sub-contracts for these works," he told the committee yesterday.

The NWA acting head, however, asserted, "there are no two ways about it that the instructions to CHEC to carry out improvement works at the NWA have been done and the people so named in those correspondence or the companies so named have been a party to it, but I am yet to establish whether they are sub-contractors, whether they are agents of the contractor or in what other capacity they were carrying out those works, and I think that is something I still need more time to establish factually".

In answer to Dr Phillips' question about whether the relationship of the companies named is between CHEC and not with the NWA or any other entity associated with the Ministry of Transport and Works, Patterson said: "Until such time as we identify anything to the contrary, those four people identified in the correspondence fall under the ambit that instructions were given to CHEC to carry out certain works and to procure office partitions and workstations etc".

The NWA acting head said three of the entities "were associated in some shape or form with the office refurbishing and the other with the office equipment". He said that after further examining the contract he would be able to establish whether the relationship was a contractual one or could be classified as employment or consultancy.

Patterson was among officials of the Ministry of Transport and Works and the NWA who once again appeared before the PAC to answer more questions on the controversial infrastructure programme.

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