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PM: I will not fire Paulwell

PM sees nothing displeasing in Paulwell’s actions

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, June 05, 2014    

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PRIME Minister Portia Simpson Miller yesterday expressed a vote of confidence in her energy minister, Phillip Paulwell, informing the House of Representatives that the job remains his, unless he displeases Jamaicans in a serious way.

"Let me make it quite clear: I have a minister of energy in place. Unless he does something wrong that would affect and impact the Jamaican people in a serious way, and the Government of Jamaica [he will not be fired]," Simpson Miller said, in responding to a question from Opposition Leader Andrew Holness.

"...And that would be my decision, not yours," Simpson Miller said in a sotto voce remark as she sat down.

Prime Minister Simpson Miller was answering questions from Holness in the House of Representatives on the 381 megawatt energy project.

At one stage she asked Paulwell to stand and show Holness that he was not "paralysed" by his recent failure to pin down the energy plant project.

"It is a very important statement you have just made," Holness reacted, recalling that the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) had expressed the view that the procurement process was flawed and that Paulwell's contribution was improper.

Holness criticised the prime minister for not taking any action in response to the comments made by the contractor general in his special report on the matter. But Simpson Miller reminded the House that her administration had disagreed with the report.

In its special report, the OCG had noted that Energy World International's (EWI's) bid for the project was not sent to the Office of Utilities Regulations (OUR) within the time frame for submitting bids, and that the Hong Kong-based company had benefited from what the OCG labelled as the irregular and improper intervention of Paulwell.

Holness said that while nothing was wrong with the prime minister disagreeing with the report, it should be recognised that the OCG is a constituted body that reports to Parliament and its report should not be taken lightly.

At the same time, he questioned whether the prime minister sought legal advice on the issue as the report deserved more attention from her than simply disagreeing with it.

"I just want to say to members that there was disagreement between the OCG and the OUR," Simpson Miller responded.

"What did you do to resolve that?" Holness asked.

"We got legal advice on it," Simpson Miller told him.

Holness suggested that it would be useful if the prime minister would table the legal advice she received, in Parliament. He also noted that in a previous disagreement with the OCG, the Government had sought a judicial review in the Supreme Court.

"We wonder if the matter should not be acted upon with greater responsibility, because it is that very matter why we are here," the Opposition leader said.

However, the prime minister responded that the urgency to her Government was to get the energy project back on stream so that it can offer Jamaicans, especially the business community, cheaper energy.

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