VIDEO: Vaz produces copy of Golding's Paraguay trip cheque

Thursday, June 23, 2011

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MINISTER with responsibility for information Daryl Vaz has produced a copy of a cheque which he said is proof that Prime Minister Bruce Golding's trip to Paraguay last week was not paid for by Government contractor YP Seaton.


The $730,000-cheque, made from Golding's personal account at the Bank of Nova Scotia, carries a June 14 date -- the day before he, his son Stephen, Vaz and five other persons left for the South American country for a bird-shooting expedition.


At yesterday's post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House in Kingston, where journalists were shown the copy of the cheque, Vaz maintained that not only did Golding pay his own airfare and that of his son, but he had been going on these missions with Seaton since the early 1990s.


Explaining that Seaton has been organising these trips for years, Vaz said the contractor would advance payment for group members who travel on these expeditions, using his travel agency and is later reimbursed.


In fact, Vaz said last week's trip was the seventh such for the prime minister, the last being in 2010.


"This trip is in no way, shape, or form a gift to the prime minister or his son," Vaz said.


The provision of the cheque copy was in response to a newspaper article on Sunday suggesting that the trip was paid for by Seaton. The report triggered calls from the Opposition for the matter to be thoroughly investigated.


Yesterday, Vaz, in noting that the friendship between Seaton and Golding goes back 40 years, said he would welcome any legitimate investigation into the matter.


"The prime minister and myself welcome any legitimate investigations... the prime minister fills out his Integrity Commission form every year and has absolutely nothing to hide," he said.


Vaz said he did not need to defend Seaton, whom he described as a reputable grade one contractor who has been in the business since 1969 and who had been awarded several major contracts through competitive tender under both administrations.


Earlier in the day, the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) called on the commissioner of police to investigate the matter.


The call came after Contractor General Greg Christie, who the PNP had earlier asked to investigate the financial relationship between Golding and Seaton, said that the matter should be referred to the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions as it was outside his mandate.


"If, therefore, the substance of the referenced allegation is that the prime minister has merely received a gift from YP Seaton and Associates Limited, and there is credible evidence to support the veracity of the allegation, then the matter, in the OCG's considered view, should be directed to the Commissioner of Police and/or the Director of Prosecutions, and not the OCG," Christie said in a release.


He said "Section 4 (3) (g) of the October 2010 Government of Jamaica Handbook of Public Sector Procurement Procedures, which came into force on January 2, 2011, expressly provides that 'Public Officers shall not accept gifts from current or potential GOJ contractors'.


Christie also used to opportunity to point out that $2.698 billion in contracts — endorsed by the National Contracts Commission — were awarded to YP Seaton & Associates Limited between May 2001 and November 2010. He said 17 of the 35 endorsements, amounting to as much as $2.306 billion, were "effected since October 1, 2007", a month after the Golding's Jamaica Labour Party administration took office.



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