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Paulwell seeks legal advice on possible challenge to OCG

Tuesday, May 06, 2014    

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ENERGY Minister Phillip Paulwell is seeking legal advice from the solicitor general with a view to taking Contractor General Dirk Harrison to court over his report on the bidding process to implement the 381-megawatt energy project, according to a well-placed source.

Consultations, the newspaper was informed, are already underway between the solicitor general and the embattled minister, who is fighting to clear not only his name, but to repair any reputational damage that occurred to the country with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) reversing its position to support the 381MW project as a result of the contractor general's report.

The Jamaica Observer was, however, unable to reach Paulwell last night for a comment.

The basis on which the minister can seek judicial review of the contractor general report lies in the legal response of the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) to the Office of the Contractor General's special investigation report, the source said.

The OUR legal response, posted on its website, contends that the OCG erred in using the Government of Jamaica guidelines for consultancy tenders during its probe, whereas it should have used guidelines for Works Tenders. This, the source contends, is a serious error in law.

The OUR legal response further contends that the OUR conducted two distinctly different processes: an informal exploratory process in which expressions of interest were received, followed by a formal legal tender.

The source said that Energy World International (EWl), the company that eventually emerged as the preferred bidder to undertake the project, received Cabinet approval to be included after the deadline of the informal preliminary process but well before the commencement of the formal tender.

The sources said these two facts provided the foundation to apply for judicial review.

The project is to be built with a mix of EWI equity and multilateral funding. The imprimatur of the IDB is key to receiving the go-ahead for that funding.

It was Harrison's first major report since assuming office in 2013. The report was issued on the same day that he issued the long-awaited Richard Azan report. But this isn't the first time in recent years that a Government minister will be taking the OCG to court.

Transport Minister Dr Omar Davies last year sought leave for judicial review of a decision by the contractor general to monitor an oversight body set up by the minister to advise on the award of contracts to a public body.

The minister, however, withdrew the challenge.

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