Op-Ed: The Jamaica Contractor General’s Office and Its Critics


By Ramesh Sujanani
Op-Ed Contributor

I was somewhat surprised to see no less than three articles in the Jamaica Gleaner in which the Contractor-General’s Office was queried and criticized, in what I believe to be an outstanding job over the auditing of projects, especially where it exposes questions of mismanagement and competence of those duly-elected administrators.

Regarding the three articles that have come out against Contractor General Greg Christie, one is an editorial that suggests that a committee of three would be considered as favourable as a monitor by the OCG, led by Christie, who has been fearlessly rooting out corruption.

Works Minister Dr Omar Davies named the Independent Oversight Committee in Parliament last week, and suggested that its intervention would speed up the progress in new investments.

Why is speed essential all of a sudden, when some of these projects have been delayed for years?

Some compromise could be made with the OCG to monitor the project from start to finish so that it remains within budget.

My perception is that Dr Davies’ intent seems somewhat Machiavellian — I am only pointing out the editors’ doubt when qualifying their closing remarks with “if it works.”

We are too long is this game for trial and error.

The second article refers to much of the same. We are to ignore Christie, because he is stifling investment, but the effect will also take place when international financing agencies restrain loans and financing options because of a record of corruption from previous projects.

There is a legal point that Mr Christie is not permitted in law to be the only audit to review a project for proper expenditure, on which I cannot give a legal opinion.

It seems sensible to me that the OCG should be the only office since it was set up for that particular purpose, and I am sure it would have the power to co-opt assistance if necessary.

The third article seems to relate an answer given to former Industry Minister Dr Christopher Tufton by Dr Davies, outlining the issues which led the Government to appoint an independent committee, which has been now established.

Dr Davies points out that procuring processes needed to be re-examined, and contracts approved, legislative moves implemented; which the committee would only temporarily establish. In my estimation, some of these projects will take years to complete, so anything implemented is likely to be permanent. My perception of integrity is not satisfied, and I feel Jamaica and its people are going to be held for ransom.

Dr Davies made the point that Jamaica is in a competitive position with regard to an expansion of our port and the possibility of losing the business to other ports, if there are any delays.

Why should there be any doubt when we have a competent Port Authority, and the nearest and largest natural harbour east of the Panama Canal? In fact, it is the most well-equipped port, something which shows that we developed our resources in a capable and responsible manner.

Are we now going to lose our business because we do not override Greg Christie?

In my opinion I do not believe that any other committee should be appointed  “harum-scarum”, without the expressed guidelines of the OCG, which should then define its parameters and terms of reference.

Any so-called “committee” would then be illegal, should it be independently established without the due knowledge and consent of the OCG, which at this time is the only defined authority for government contracts.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.

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