NIA asks Integrity Commission to turn spotlight on public bodiesWednesday, July 15, 2020
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Local corruption watchdog National Integrity Action (NIA) is urging the Integrity Commission to launch a probe into what the NIA describes as years of “lawless” behaviour by most of the country's public bodies that have failed to file legally required annual reports. These reports are to include audited financial statements which would provide insight into how public funds are being spent.
“This must be a matter of serious public concern, as during the Financial Year 2019/2020, public bodies, including the Sugar Company of Jamaica, were responsible for the award of over 21,000 contracts valued at over J$137 billion. I am therefore requesting the Integrity Commission to probe this wholesale breach of the Public Bodies Accountability Act and, on the face of it, consistent failure to impose sanctions, as provided for in section 25(2), for this continuing lawless practice,” said the NIA's Dr Trevor Munroe in a July 15 letter addressed to Integrity Commission head Greg Christie.
“In this context I am also requesting the Integrity Commission to investigate the extent to which, in the Holland Estate matter, Minister [JC] Hutchinson's conduct and that of the Sugar Company of Jamaica is in breach of the 'Policy Framework and Procedures Manual for the Divestment of Government Owned Lands', which states that the process 'shall be based on a system of equity, accountability, integrity and transparency',” he added.
Information from the Cabinet Secretary's website, Munroe noted, indicated that of the 164 named public bodies, only one – compared to four in 2016 – was up to date in filing annual reports. The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture & Fishing (MICAF) was cited as having oversight for entities particularly tardy in filing.
“The Sugar Company of Jamaica for example was reportedly seven years in arrears and hence seven years in breach of the Public Bodies Management Accountability Act. In fact, not one of the 26 entities listed under the MICAF was current in their reporting status,” Munroe said.
Among other public bodies with outstanding annual reports, according to the NIA, are the National Works Agency and the National Water Commission, which are said to be seven and three years in arrears, respectively. It was also noted that all four regional health authorities have reports outstanding for a period between five and nine years.