Holness rejects findings of the Integrity Commission regarding conflict of interest

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has rejected the findings of the Integrity Commission regarding conflict of interest in the awarding of contracts to a company whose director is known to him.


Mr. Holness said he did not exercise any influence over the contracts, and he strongly disagrees with some of the findings of the report from the Office of the Contractor General (OCG).


He has referred the report to his attorneys.


The Prime Minister was responding to a report from the OCG, now Integrity Commission, which was tabled in parliament, on Tuesday.


The OCG’s Director of Investigations has referred Mr. Holness to the Director of Corruption Prosecution, for consideration in relation to conflict of interest, due to multimillion dollar contracts awarded to Westcon Construction Limited between 2006 and 2009.


The OCG noted that Westcon, whose director is Robert Gavin, was recommended for the contracts, by way of letters from Mr. Holness, during the period he served as member of parliament for West Central St. Andrew and Minister of Education.


In a statement last evening, Mr. Holness indicted that, he reviewed the OCG’s report and pointed out that the matter concerning the award of contracts goes as far back as 2006 to 2009, over 14 to 17 years ago.


Mr. Holness said the failure of agencies to comply with various procurement rules cannot be attributed to him in any capacity, adding that the report does not make such a conclusion.


He explained that in his previous response to the Integrity Commission queries of these dated matters, he made it absolutely clear that at no time has he ever exercised influence on any process for the award of contracts.


Mr. Holness strongly disagreed with the findings of the Integrity Commission regarding conflict of interest based on mere association.


He said it has been the longstanding practice that members of parliament are asked to recommend local contractors to undertake works in their constituencies as a practical matter.


Furthermore, it is also the practice that constituency project officers for the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) are recommended by the Member of Parliament.


He said it is not unusual that CDF project officers are persons who are already working in the constituency organization and are associated with the MP.


Mr. Holness said a review of local works and CDF project officers will find that MP recommendations feature significantly in a vast number of them, and this has never been cited as exercising undue influence.


He said the Integrity Commission’s report also ignores the circumstances of an emergency, where in 2008, 15 years ago the ‘Christmas work’ programme was late in starting, and workers faced a high probability of not being paid.


He said he was asked to recommend an entity to facilitate payment of the ‘Christmas work programme’ before the close of business for the Christmas holidays.


This he said, was done in good faith, so to see this action being targeted and made into something it is not, is gravely disappointing.


Mr. Holness strongly rejected any suggestion or insinuation of wrongdoing, and said he will do all in his power to ensure that the truth is known.


The Prime Minister said he and the government he leads, remain strongly committed to tackling corruption in the country.


He said the processes of doing so must, however, be practical, balanced, and fair to all concerned.


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