Jamaica Contractor General recommends charges against Junior Minister

(Jamaica Gleaner) The Office of the Contractor General (OCG) has recommended that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) consider bringing criminal charges against junior works minister, Richard Azan and others in relation to the Spaldings Market affair.

Azan, who is the Member Parliament for North West Clarendon, has admitted to instructing a private contractor, John Bryant, to construct 10 shops at the market last September without the permission of the Clarendon Parish Council.

The OCG’s report on the matter was tabled in the House of Representatives this afternoon.

The OCG says the construction of the shops was done without permission from the Clarendon Parish Council and that rent was set and charged without proper consent.

As a result the OCG has suggested that criminal proceedings be instituted against Azan, Bryant and Azan’s secretary, Bridget Daley-Dixon, who acted as an intermediary in collecting the rent.

The OCG wants the DPP to determine whether their actions gave rise to a Conspiracy to Defraud the Revenue of the Clarendon Parish Council.

It says due consideration must be given to the fact that Azan, in participating in a meeting, where rates were set for the lease of the illegally constructed wooden shops and the designation of the person responsible for the collection of the rent, further implicates him in the web of conspiracy.

The OCG says given Azan’s 20 years of association with the Clarendon Parish Council, it is reasonable to expect that he would have known he was circumventing the rules.

The OCG has also recommended that disciplinary action be taken against Azan by his parliamentary colleagues, in accordance with the Westminster Model of governance.

It says his actions have brought the parish council into disrepute and are, at best, tantamount to being politically corrupt.

In the meantime, the OCG says Azan’s secretary helped to divert funds which rightfully belonged to the Clarendon Parish Council to Bryant.

The OCG says the fact that the $213,000 which was collected was refunded by Bryant to the Clarendon Parish Council, reinforces that he realised that the money was not due to him.

The Contractor General has also referred Mayor Scean Barnswell to the DPP for allegedly knowingly misleading the office during the conduct of the investigation.

Meanwhile, the OCG has concluded that the supply of electricity to the shops from the parish council was illegal.

It says disciplinary action should be taken against the Budget and Revenue Officer of the Clarendon Parish Council for charging vendors a fee ranging from $100 to $200 per day without advising supervisors.

The OCG has also recommended disciplinary action against other officers at the council for failing to address irregularities at the shops despite knowing about the issue for months.

It says the then Commercial Services Manager, Ralston Peters, did not take any action in regard to the referenced shops, in particular, because the erection of the shops involved a member of the Political Directorate.

The OCG has also recommended that the Auditor General’s Office carry out a probe at the Parish Council.

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