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Lisa Hanna's lawyers say findings of OCG baseless

Thursday, November 23, 2017

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ATTORNEY K D Knight and his team of lawyers representing embattled Member of Parliament (MP) for St Ann South Eastern Lisa Hanna have slapped down the contractor general's findings of wrongdoing against the MP as baseless, and vowed to defend her integrity.

Hanna, a former minister of culture who is now the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) shadow minister for foreign affairs, has been accused of misbehaviour in a public office and now has questions hanging over her head about her alleged involvement in directly influencing the awarding of contracts for bushing and drain cleaning works in her constituency since 2012.

Contractor General Dirk Harrison has called for the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to begin a criminal investigation into Hanna's actions and occurences at her constituency office, as well as the St Ann Municipal Corporation and all its councillors, as well as other personnel.

The MP is accused of influencing $13 million worth of contracts over five years in the constituency in a damning 554-page report by the Office of the Contractor General (OCG).

All the councillors of the municipal corporation have also been implicated in the scandal, which the OCG said involves falsified documents, misleading statements, and instances of no contracts being in place for works paid for.

The OCG has asked the ODPP to determine whether, in her role as MP, Hanna “wilfully neglected to perform her duty and/or wilfully misconducted herself by making recommendations for the award of government contracts, amounting to an abuse of the public's trust, by acting fraudulently”.

In a statement yesterday, her attorneys — Knight, Junor and Samuels — were adamant that Hanna bears no criminal culpability, and neither do the other individuals accused of wrongdoing in the OCG investigation, even though the law firm is not representing them.

“The contractor general seems to be of the view that a bushing contract ought to be granted on merit or on the basis of a competitive process in circumstances where the contract could be as low as $50,000, as stated in his report,” the lawyers said, pointing out that the report speaks to 53 contracts over five years for small debushing and drain-cleaning projects.

They added: “The alleged maladies complained of would be applicable to every constituency and parish council division in the island. It is ridiculous to contend that a member of parliament can recommend any constituent except one of his or her own political party to be the beneficiary in a work programme. We are of the view that the allegations of corruption are without foundation.”

Harrison has also recommended that the Auditor General's Department conducts an immediate and comprehensive audit of the contract award and procurement practices of the St Ann Municipal Corporation, in relation to the implementation and contract award process for the Constituency Development Fund.

He has asked the ODPP, also, to determine whether Hanna's actions in making recommendations for the award of contracts to 12 people affiliated and/or associated with the People's National Party (PNP) amounts to a conflict of interest. The OCG has further recommended that criminal investigations be pursued in all 53 contracts it investigated between July 2015 and June 2017 because the findings appear to be a conspiracy to defraud the Government of Jamaica.

Meanwhile, the Opposition PNP, in a statement yesterday, said it has taken note of and referred the report to the party's legal advisor and integrity commission for review, and was awaiting recommendations on the way forward. “Some of the issues raised in the OCG's report have sweeping implications for our political organisation and structure, including PNP councillors,” said the PNP.

The OCG has recommended that all de-bushing and drain-cleaning works across the island be discontinued immediately, or that the relevant due diligence and contract management systems of implementing agencies be strengthened.

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