Prosecute the Cabinet!
OCG seeks criminal charges against prime minister, executive
THE Office of the Contractor General (OCG) has asked the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to pursue criminal charges against Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and members of the Cabinet for failing to comply with its requests.
The OCG, in a release yesterday, said it made the referral because of the Cabinet's failure to comply with "lawful statutory requisitions" relating to its investigations into, and its monitoring of at least four major projects being pursued by the Government.
According to the OCG, its decision was taken with due care, after failing to secure compliance from the Cabinet or the intervention of the prime minister over the past eight months, and subsequent to consideration of the legal recourse available.
"The OCG considers the Cabinet's non-compliance to be tantamount to an obstruction to its Office, as it seeks to faithfully discharge its mandates and obligation to the people of Jamaica, by ensuring that Government contracts, inclusive of licences and permits, and the divestment of state assets, are awarded/granted impartially, on merit, and in circumstances which do not involve impropriety or irregularity," the release said.
It added that the issue "is of even more dire consequence", since certain public bodies are relying on a Supreme Court action filed against the OCG by Minister of Transport, Works and Housing Dr Omar Davies, as the basis on which to validate their non-compliance with its requests.
The Government has challenged the OCG's probe into the award of contracts for the North-South Link of Highway 2000 and the Gordon Cay Container Trans-shipment Hub. The OCG said that these actions have also affected its monitoring of the operations of Blue Diamonds Hotels and Resorts Inc and the liquefied natural gas (LNG) project.
The office filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in July in response to an earlier application by Davies seeking to have the court restrain the OCG from securing information from the Independent Oversight Panel (IOP) set up by the Government to oversee the award of its contracts.
Members of the IOP — Principal and Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies Professor Gordon Shirley, businessman R Danny Williams and retired territory senior partner for auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers Everton McDonald — have all decided to stand down until the matter is settled.
Former Contractor General Greg Christie had accused the Government of trying to bypass his office by appointing the IOP, and threatened legal action if it did not supply the requested information. He maintained up to his retirement last month, that the Contractor General Act gives him power to vet pre and post-contractual agreements.
However, Davies and Attorney General Patrick Atkinson want the court to determine the extent of the OCG's power to investigate matters in the pre-contract stage, and to bar that office from issuing documents on sensitive matters to the media prior to their being tabled in Parliament.
The OCG sent a report on the matter to Parliament last month, but it was not tabled prior to the Christmas break. The contents have not yet been made public and the OCG said it will not do so until it is tabled.
But, yesterday the OCG said that "given the gravity of the matter, particularly the Cabinet's seeming disregard for the rule of law and, in effect, its failure to comply with the lawful requisitions of the OCG", it had no alternative but to invoke the provisions of the Contractor General Act.