Jamaica Contractor General puts new gov’t on warning over China company deal

(Jamaica Observer) Contractor General Greg Christie has asked the new People’s National Party administration to declare its hand in negotiations with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) for completion of the US$600-million North-South Link Highway 2000, and for the consequential granting of a 50-year toll concession to that company is concerned.

Christie made the call in a congratulatory letter to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller on her swearing-in in which he, among other things, raised concerns about the project and sought audience with the administration to canvass its opinions on some 25 recommendations which he says are for urgent consideration and implementation.

Chief among those are what he said are “strong objections to the apparent intent of the former Government to award, without international competitive tender, a sole-source contract to CHEC to, among other things, complete the construction of the Spanish Town to Ocho Rios North-South Link of Highway 2000 and the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP)”.

Said Christie: “The OCG continues to maintain that the current negotiations between NROCC (National Road Operating and Constructing Company Limited) and CHEC should be terminated forthwith, and that the said transaction, irrespective of its structure, should be subjected to a transparent and international competitive bidding process whereby value for money can be secured for the benefit of the people and taxpayers of Jamaica,” Christie said yesterday.

The contractor general said that his office was “not only amazed, but alarmed, that the former JLP administration was seemingly bent on persisting what would be another controversial sole-source contract award to CHEC, despite ongoing public controversies, audits and OCG investigations which have arisen in consequence of a similar sole-source award of the US$400-million JDIP” contract to the same company.

He said that pending the outcome of the investigations, and in an effort to strengthen the oversight of the execution of the JDIP and to promote transparency, competition, fairness and value for money in matters that are associated therewith, the OCG was proposing the implementation of a number of measures.

As such, he said the selection of JDIP sub-contractors should be subjected to an OCG-supervised competitive tender processes giving his office the ability to better scrutinise the particulars of all such sub-contracts.

In addition, he said it should be a fundamental condition of the programme that all tributary contracts that are awarded by JDIP sub-contractors, must be awarded to only those registered with the National Contracts Commission.

In the letter dispatched to the prime minister last Friday, her first day in office, Christie said: “I stand ready to meet with you and/or your nominees at your earliest convenience to discuss the said matters, to answer any questions that you may have, and to understand the direction that your administration is prepared to take, regarding the said recommendations, in keeping with the specific public commitments that you have already given to strengthen the OCG and to fight corruption in Jamaica.”

Those recommendations, he said, were a snapshot of the ones previously submitted to former prime minister, Andrew Holness, in a letter dated October 31, 2011 — a mere eight days after he assumed that office.

Yesterday, Christie said the recommendations were specifically crafted to, among other things, enhance transparency, competition, accountability and probity in public contracting and licensing in Jamaica as well as to eliminate fraud and corruption in government contracting.

He made it clear, however, that the recommendations sent to Simpson Miller were among the many corrective and remedial anti-corruption recommendations that the OCG has repeatedly made.

“…However, no satisfactory action, to date, has been forthcoming from the executive or legislative arms of the State to effectively implement any of them,” he said.

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