Speaker: Parliament has right to get Outameni documents

Speaker: Parliament has right to get Outameni documents

Friday, December 05, 2014

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SPEAKER of the House of Representatives Michael Peart on Tuesday sided with Opposition Leader Andrew Holness that Parliament has a right to access documents containing information on the controversial purchase of the Outameni property in Trelawny by the National Housing Trust (NHT).

Holness had tabled questions two weeks ago, asking Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to submit all correspondence relating to the Outameni transaction, including letters, notes, recordings and contracts to Parliament.

However, in her response in the House Tuesday, Simpson Miller said that the correspondence and documentation would be sent to the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) and the Auditor General (AG), which she said are the appropriate bodies to receive such submissions.

But, Holness insisted that Parliament was a higher body than both the OCG and the AG, and had the authority to request the documents.

"This body, the House of Parliament, has the authority to requisition such documents from the prime minister, and by these questions we have (asked) and the prime minister, by her answer, has refused to deliver these documents," Holness said.

Leader of the House of Representatives, Phillip Paulwell, rose in support of the prime minister's position, pointing out that both the Auditor General's Department and the Office of the Contractor General were commissions of Parliament.

"If they are engaged in investigating this matter, it is entirely inappropriate for the Parliament at this stage to request those documents," Paulwell said.

But, Holness cited previous occasions when requests were made by both sides in the House for information on consultants employed by government, and they were provided on both occasions.

"There is no way that the Parliament of Jamaica, by requesting this information from the prime minister, could in any way place a danger on investigations being done by the Auditor General or Contractor General," Holness said.

The Opposition leader asked the speaker to give a direction to the House that the prime minister should make the documents available to Parliament.

"I think that it is in order that the documents be provided," Peart advised the House.

Paulwell said he needed clarification as to whether the speaker was referring to the same documents which have been made available to the Auditor General and the Contractor General.

The speaker said "yes, yes".

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