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Company could face prosecution for alleged forged document submitted to Petrojam in 2013

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 10, 2019

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THE Office of the Contractor General has recommended that Orchard Solutions Limited be suspended or barred from future procurement opportunities with Government, and that the police fraud squad be called in to investigate the company and take necessary action.

The recommendation followed a probe into allegations of irregularity and impropriety surrounding the submission of an alleged forged National Contracts Commission (NCC) registration letter by the company to Petrojam Limited, in seeking to be awarded a contract for the provision of street and flood lamp fixtures.

According to the report, the amount which Orchard Solutions quoted for the project was US$73,288.

The OCG, now subsumed under the Integrity Commission, initiated the investigation in April 2016.

In the report from the commission, which was tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, the OCG said it had found, based on documentary evidence, that Orchard Solutions submitted a forged NCC registration letter, dated December 2, 2013, to Petrojam in response to the state oil refinery's request for quotation for the project.

The commission pointed out that under the Forgery Act, this is a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment with hard labour for a term of up to seven years. “The submission of the NCC registration letter by Orchard Solutions Limited constitutes the criminal offence of uttering a forged document,” the report said.

In its findings, the OCG said in relation to the NCC registration letter which the company submitted, it observed that: the font size of the date, the registration expiry date, as well as the approval date, were slightly smaller than the font size for the other characters in the letter, which is uncommon in a typical registration letter issued by the NCC. It also noted that the stamp which was used to approve the letter was retired by the NCC prior to December 2, 2013, and that the letter does not form a part of the NCC's records.

“It is customary for the NCC to retain a record of all letters which are submitted to contractors,” the report noted.

The OCG said Orchard Solutions Limited was not registered with the NCC during the period December 2, 2013 to May 29, 2015.

The report added that an internal review of Orchard Solutions' registration with the NCC revealed that the last application for re-registration, which was made by the entity was April 17, 2012. This was approved on May 30, 2012, for a period of 12 months, with an expiry date of May 29, 2013.

The commission said following a change in policy by the NCC, the period of registration of all contractors was extended from 12 to 18 months, resulting in Orchard Solutions' re-registration period being extended for an additional six months, up to November 29, 2013.

But the OCG said it saw no evidence the company was registered with the NCC during the period December 2, 2013 to May 29, 2015.

At the same time, the OCG said Petrojam must be commended for taking the initiative to independently verify the authenticity of the NCC registration letter as well as to ensure compliance with the required NCC category. “If this verification exercise was not conducted, the discrepancy, in relation to the status of Orchard Solutions Limited's registration with the NCC may not have been identified,” it said.

The OCG investigation was triggered on March 27, 2014, when it received an e-mail correspondence from a representative of Petrojam which indicated that Orchard Solutions in response to a request for quotation from Petrojam had submitted a forged NCC registration letter.

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