Contractor General’s statements hurting Jamaica – AG

(Jamaica Observer) Attorney General Patrick Atkinson says that uncontrolled media releases from the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) will only serve to hurt Jamaica’s reputation internationally.

He made particular reference to two recent statements by the office that Cabinet had “been reported to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for criminal prosecution” and that “Cabinet is in flagrant violation of the rule of law”.

 Attorney General Patrick Atkinson
Attorney General Patrick Atkinson

“When you use that kind of language, that will cause some international speculation and this is at a time when we are looking forward to foreign investments and so it certainly does not help when you have that kind of inflammatory language being used,” Atkinson said, in responding to questions from journalists attending a People’s National Party press conference at its Old Hope Road headquarters on Thursday to launch a one-year progress report.

Earlier this month, Acting Contractor General Craig Beresford accused Cabinet of obstructing his probe of major State projects.

As such, he requested of the DPP that criminal charges be pursued against members of the Cabinet for failing to comply with the OCG’s “lawful statutory requisitions” relating to its investigations into and its monitoring of, at least, four major projects being undertaken by the Government.

But this week, the attorney general bluntly told Beresford, via a media release, that the Cabinet reports to Parliament, not to the OCG and they would not release documents required for the probe until the Supreme Court ruled on the powers of the OCG.

At Thursday’s press conference, Atkinson would not say much more on the matter when pressed as to whether the issue would come up for further discussions at the three-day Cabinet Retreat, which ends today.

Atkinson, in the release, had also accused the OCG of insisting on a right to issue media releases concerning its investigations, “even before it reports to Parliament”, under what he described as “unsubstantiated discretionary powers”.

“As I indicated, it was with some reluctance that I issued the release as it centred around the fact that there is some judicial review of certain issue concerning the Contractor General Act, but because of the media release that was issued (by the OCG) and the way it was done I felt obliged to say something,” Atkinson said.

“I took it as far as I could without going into the issues to be decided by the court and I do have an inherent reluctance to go any further,” he added.

The Government last year requested a judicial review to define the powers of the OCG in its pre-contract monitoring because of the OCG’s probe into the award of contracts for the North-South Link of Highway 2000 and the Gordon Cay Container Transhipment Hub.

The OCG filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in July last year in response to an earlier application by Transport and Works Minister Dr Omar Davies seeking to have the court restrain the OCG from securing information from the Independent Oversight Panel, which was set up by the Government to oversee the award of its contracts.

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