Police to get 97 vehicles by Monday

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, December 15, 2017

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NATIONAL Security Minister Robert Montague says 97 motor vehicles will be delivered to the Jamaica Constabulary Force by Monday.

These motor vehicles are the remainder of the 119 vehicles which the Government has been sourcing locally for the police.

Montague told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that the ministry had already received the initial set of units.

“We canvassed all the motor vehicle suppliers across the island, which are registered with the National Contracts Commission. We entered into negotiations and purchased what they had in stock,” he said, adding that “the procurement started October, so there wasn't any mad rush”.

The Government is acquiring the vehicles through emergency procurement after a fallout in its $426.9-million deal with Obrien's International Car Sales to supply the police with 200 used vehicles. Obrien's was paid half of the contract amount and should have delivered the vehicles by June of this year, but so far, only 30 units have been handed over.

The company's failure to supply the remaining units after two extensions, has left 66 vehicles stuck at Customs and the Government embroiled in a disagreement over who should pay the $16 million in general consumption tax (GCT) and special consumption tax (SCT) on those vehicles.

After the issue came to light at a Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) meeting at Gordon House three weeks ago, it was revealed in subsequent developments that the Ministry of Finance had granted a moratorium for the initial set of vehicles that Obrien's imported in June.

Obrien's request for the Ministry of National Security to take up the slack for the taxes on the 66 units was initially refused by both the Ministry of National Security and the Finance Ministry. However, it was revealed on the morning of the PAAC meeting that Customs had been directed to grant a moratorium on the vehicles and that the National Security Ministry had been directed to pay the taxes.

The matter has since resulted in the Government seeking advice from the attorney general, who Montague said was yesterday locked in a meeting with Obrien's and officials of his ministry seeking a resolution. The minister made it clear in the House of Representatives last week, while being questioned by the Opposition, that it was almost certain that the Government would end up in a legal battle with Obrien's.

Yesterday, Montague insisted that the Government had not done Obrien's any favours as has been intimated in the public sphere.

“Since May I have refused to pay the GCT and the SCT on the cars that the supplier has on the wharf. If I had paid the $16 million, that would have been a scandal, a bailout,” he stated, while addressing a citizenship certification ceremony at the Police Officers' Club.

He reiterated that the Government has called on the $42.5-million performance bond which it holds under the contract.

“The contractor has not performed; there is a provision to treat with it. we have triggered that provision with an established insurance company in Jamaica, who gave us the letter of undertaking,” he stated.

PAAC member Mikael Phillips told the Observer that the Opposition is still concerned that the Government has seen it fit to call on the performance bond but has not terminated the contract.

“If the supplier has not performed as they would expect him to, why then is that contract not yet cancelled? Is it that they intend for him to supply the balance of the vehicles? If that is so, we as an Opposition would be concerned [about] if the supplier is capable of supplying those vehicles… I am surprised that they are still negotiating with the supplier to take these 66 vehicles off the wharf. We are nowhere nearer to settling the situation,” Phillips said.

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