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OCG to respond to works ministry's suit

Paul Henry

Friday, June 29, 2012    

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THE Office of the Contractor General (OCG) is currently preparing a response to the legal action brought against it by the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing concerning the controversial Independent Oversight Panel (IOP) established by the ministry to oversee three major development projects.

The OCG is being represented by Queens Counsel Jacqueline Samuels-Brown and the response is expected to be filed before the matter comes up for hearing on July 10.

The ministry is seeking Judicial Review of the contractor general's decision to monitor and investigate the IOP, which Cabinet set up in April to oversee the negotiation process of the North-South Toll Highway Project, the Fort Augusta Port Project and the Gordon Cay Expansion Project.

According to documents filed in the Supreme Court last Friday, the ministry will also be seeking an interlocutory injunction restraining the contractor general from continuing to monitor and investigate the activities of the panel and from taking steps against the members of the panel for failure to comply with request for information. If granted, the injunction will remain in place pending the outcome of the application for Judicial Review.

The ministry is also seeking to prevent Contractor General Greg Christie from issuing any further media releases in respect of the "establishment and activities of the IOP", pending the outcome of the hearing.

According to the affidavit, the panel was set up earlier this year to "provide transparency and governance oversight of the process of negotiating the legal and commercial arrangements" for the projects in the event that a decision is made by the Government to enter into contractual arrangements with two Chinese companies — China Harbour Engineering Corporation and CMA CGM — to undertake the work.

The establishment of the oversight panel was announced in Parliament on April 24.

Three days later, Christie issued a release in which he objected to the panel — consisting of Professor Gordon Shirley, principal of the University of the West Indies, Mona, R Danny Williams and Everton McDonald, retired territorial senior partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers — calling it a "brazen", but "futile attempt to usurp, undermine and circumvent the lawful Government monitoring authority and mandate" of his office.

The ministry is seeking several declarations from the court, including that the panel, being a voluntary advisory body, is not subject to the monitoring and investigative oversight of the contractor general pursuant to Sections 4 and 15 of the Contractor General Act; and that the Act does not empower the contractor general to monitor the activities of a voluntary advisory body not engaged under any Government contract of having the authority to award or implement Government contracts or to grant, issue, suspend or revoke any prescribed licence.

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