JIS News

Minister of Local Government and Environment, Hon. Dean Peart has said that the purpose of the islandwide audit of Parish Councils, which he ordered, was not due to widespread irregularity in procurement procedures.
Mr. Peart was clarifying a previous statement that he made in which it was said that there were breaches in procurement regulations in the St. Catherine, St. Mary and Westmoreland Parish Councils.
Addressing the House of Representatives yesterday (Nov. 21), he explained that the audit was in fact a safeguard measure against possible breaches that could occur due to aspects of the guidelines that may have not been previously clear to Parish Council staff.
“Our main objective in auditing the local authorities was to find out the existing level of compliance with the Government’s procurement guidelines, as well as to point out the breaches identified by the audits and seek to steer them in the right direction in an effort to improve the levels of accountability and transparency,” said Minister Peart.
He also commented on the concern raised by Opposition Leader, Bruce Golding in the House two weeks ago, that the breaches found in the St. Catherine, St. Mary and Westmoreland Parish Councils should have been presented before the Office of the Auditor General and not the Contractor General.
The Minister said that “in light of the peculiar nature of some of the programmes administered by the local authorities, the Ministry met with a team from the Office of the Contractor General. The Ministry then forwarded a letter to the Parish Councils to spend up to the limit of $125,000. This limit is now the subject of a proposal being developed for Cabinet’s consideration”.
Speaking further, Mr. Peart said he met and consulted with a team from the Office of the Contractor General, as he believed the Office had an efficient team that could guide the Ministry on the procurement process.
Furthermore, he explained that the State Minister for Local Government and Environment had convened a workshop with the local authorities on government procurement guidelines one week after the matter was raised in Parliament.
The workshop was held on November 13 at the Jamaica Conference centre with more than 180 participants from Parish Councils.
According to Minister Peart, the workshop was designed to get a perspective on the challenges faced by the local authorities and that these issues were addressed by a team from the Office of the Contractor General.
“I want to emphasise that our objective as the oversight body for the local authorities, is to improve the knowledge and strengthen the ability of the local authorities to follow government procurement guidelines and at the same time, improving service delivery through financial prudence at the local level on behalf of our citizens,” he said.