OCG calls for criminal probe of Lisa's seat, St Ann Municipal Corporation

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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THE Office of the Contractor General (OCG) has recommended that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the police consider pursuing criminal investigations into the awarding of contracts at the St Ann Municipal Corporation and the St Ann South Eastern constituency office.

The OCG, in a 554-page report tabled in Parliament yesterday, a copy of which was sent to the media, asked also that several contractors be criminally investigated for conspiracy to defraud the Government as it relates to the awarding of 53 contracts. The OCG began its investigation in 2015.

The report follows Contractor General Dirk Harrison's preliminary findings, disclosed in September 2016, in which he said that there were disturbing breaches involving fraud, forgery and conspiracy at the constituency office where the Opposition People's National Party's (PNP) Lisa Hanna is the Member of Parliament.

A copy of the report has been referred to the Financial Investigations Division of the Ministry of Finance for it to probe the allegations made.

The OCG recommended that criminal investigations commence into the involvement and culpability of all councillors within the St Ann Municipal Corporation as it relates to allegations of the receipt of money from contractors/facilitators in respect of contracts awarded by that corporation.

It recommended that criminal investigations be started into the involvement and culpability of two women, who, it alleges, created and uttered false document, as well as the numerous allegations of monies given to one of the women by contractors/facilitators in respect of contracts awarded by the St Ann Municipal Corporation.

The report said that the accounting and accountable officers of the St Ann Municipal Corporation disbursed payments to one man in the amount of $285,000 without the requisite verification of the satisfactory completion of work in performance of a contract which was awarded by the corporation.

It questioned whether the actions of the St Ann Municipal Corporation, in preparing documentation which gave the impression that the complete scope of works had been executed by the contract awardee, while having knowledge of the contrary, amounts to an act of fraudulent misrepresentation.

The OCG report said that contracts were signed after work began and was completed, and noted that the dates were not only irregular, but that this was contrary to best practices. This, it said, is a corruption-enabling practice.

It added that the failure of the St Ann Municipal Corporation to locate and produce the justification for the award of contract in 25 specific instances amounted to a breach of the Government of Jamaica procurement guidelines.

There were practices of signing blank contract documents on the part of contractors on the request of officers at the corporation, the report said.

It said that the practice of group contracts or payments which, in effect, is the grouping of small payments into a sum less than $500,000, is a suspicious informal practice which has been facilitated by both the constituency office and the St Ann Municipal Corporation. This, the OCG said, is a corruption-enabling practice and facility, which, if left unchecked, will have the result of rampant corruption, whether real or perceived.

Contractors signed for payments, despite works not being completed or done, the OCG report said. It added that contractors also testified that money from the contract awarded to them were then taken back to the St Ann South Eastern constituency office and given to two employees there.

The OCG said that a contract was awarded to a councillor of the constituency in the sum of $300,000 by the St Ann Municipal Corporation in December 2012, because the intended contractor could not read or write.

Twelve people affiliated with the PNP were recommended for contracts, which the OCG report said, amounts to cronyism and/or favouritism.

The OCG also recommended that a popular PNP businessman be investigated for obstructing the work of the OCG after he allegedly instructed a woman to withhold information from Harrison's office.

The report also concluded that the OCG had seen no evidence to indicate that works relating to the paving of the Prickly Pole Primary and Infant School yard, which was the subject of controversy after an 11-year-old girl died, had been undertaken.

Hanna could not be reached for a comment up to press time yesterday.




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