Opposition wants Gov't to account for borrowed NIDS funds

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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LEADER of the Parliamentary Opposition and president of the People's National Party (PNP), Dr Peter Phillips is calling on the Government to immediately account for the $9 billion (US$68 million) borrowed from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for the implementation of the National Identification Registration System (NIDS).

The Constitutional Court last Friday ruled that the National Identification and Registration Act, commonly called the NIDS Bill, is unconstitutional.

In an unprecedented live audio stream of the ruling, Chief Justice Bryan Sykes declared the court had decided that the legislation had no legal effect and is to be removed from the statutes of Jamaica. The matter was heard October 22-24 last year by justices Sykes, David Batts, and Lisa Palmer Hamilton.

Responding to the call from the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) for the Opposition to work with the Government to establish a new national identification programme, Dr Phillips said in a release yesterday that the PNP has always supported the need for such a system.

He said, on several occasions the PNP has expressed its interest in being a part of a workable solution that guarantees a system that does not infringe on the rights of Jamaicans, as enshrined in the Constitution.

The Opposition leader pointed out that the Government exercised undue haste in rushing the NIDS Bill through the Parliament — disregarding the calls from the Opposition, the Church, the Jamaican Bar, and other stakeholders to take the critical steps to protect the people's rights to privacy and access services, among others.

“Flying in the face of the court challenge, the Government hastily squandered millions of dollars in an advertising programme and roll-out, even boasting about collecting data from public sector employees for this now-unlawful system. Whose decision it was to ignore the presence of the Constitutional Court and continue using funds in a vulgar manner to instigate public support for the flawed Bill?” the Opposition leader asked in the release.

The Opposition PNP tabled a series of questions in Parliament yesterday, including: Will the prime minister state how much money has been spent to date on the NIDS project in total? Will the prime minister state what is the country's exposure to contractual obligations? And what action will now be taken by the Government as a result of the Constitutional Court ruling in relation to each contract that is still existing?

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