Yes, we have an emergency, but why another raid on the NHT?


Yes, we have an emergency, but why another raid on the NHT?

Sunday, December 20, 2020

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The Government has again raided the National Housing Trust (NHT) for support, this time in the aftermath of the blow delivered to the economy by the fallout from the novel coronavirus. There have been precedents, so while I do accept that emergencies require urgent attention, I do not accept the fact that few people ask whether or not the rights of contributors have been usurped.

The word “Trust” by its very nature suggests that the rightful owners/recipients should expect the eventual return of these contributions at a future date, or be offered housing solutions, and that the trustees are accountable for the proper custody of such that they were appointed to do. In my simplistic view, they should be carrying out their duties like the trustees of pension funds are required by law to perform.

“A trustee owes a duty of honesty, integrity, loyalty and good faith to the beneficiaries of the trust. A trustee must at all times act exclusively in the best interests of the trust and be actively involved in any decisions.” (Dutton Gregory Solicitors)

The first four are patently obvious and should go far beyond NHT to include all government-appointed boards.

Undue bias for political expediency in appointments is easily the most conducive reason for real or alleged corruption. In every case, the money being spent or protected belongs to the people of Jamaica, and repayment must be done with taxpayers' money. Failure to exercise due diligence means that the trustees will have voided their positions.

In the current circumstances and prior appropriations there must have been a few documentary provisions. These include: an application by the Ministry of Finance; board consideration of the application; approval by the full board noting any disagreement; a contract for conditions including the duration of the loans; and the terms and conditions of interest; and a repayment time.

There have been reasons given for the current use of NHT funds at this time, but transparency is required to protect the Government and the trustees from the world of litigation that could result from previous and current “raids”.

The money could have been used for large infrastructure projects preceding housing starts at much lower rates, and allowing strong contractual measurements of developers or construction companies' performance criteria on projects. I do not think that the provision of extended infrastructure such as water and power fall within the competence of all developers. This would be within the terms of reference of the NHT board and would prevent them from compromising their professional or personal reputations.

Finally, I know and admire Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, and see him as bright, respectful, and well brought up. Those are qualities that can endear him to all who meet him, at home and abroad. I implore him to avoid becoming a political “macho man”, and to lead a way to a better and more honourable governance process.

— Reprinted from the current edition of online discussion publication Public Opinion

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