JIS News

In a 29 to 17 vote in the House of Representatives, the Government on July 25 defeated the censure motion brought by Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Audley Shaw, which called for the resignation of Minister of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce, Phillip Paulwell.
In calling for the resignation, Mr. Shaw cited mismanagement and dereliction of duties regarding the circumstances surrounding a defective batch of cement, which was sold on the market in February of this year. Claiming that Minister Paulwell had misled Parliament on a number of details surrounding the issue, which resulted in an islandwide cement shortage, Mr. Shaw pointed to a report tabled in Parliament on March 14, which stated that only 500 tonnes of cement produced by Caribbean Cement Company Limited (CCCL) were faulty. He alleged that Minister Paulwell had received information from the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) outlining that the sub-standard cement had exceeded that batch.
Rebutting the charges, Member of Parliament for East Central St. Catherine, K.D. Knight, insisted that the Minister had communicated the relevant information to the House of Representatives and that any inaccurate data presented was based on the information received from the BSJ.
Mr. Knight referred to a memorandum sent to Minister Paulwell from the Bureau, on cement produced between February 23 and 25, which stated that: “we have been informed by the cement company that a batch of approximately 500 tonnes of locally manufactured cement produced by them was found to have faulty setting characteristics or premature hardening of concrete”.
On discovering the problem, the memorandum further said: “the cement company immediately contacted the various customers, who purchased this product and initiated a call of that batch of cement. Caribbean Cement has advised customers that the product is being recalled and replaced at no additional cost to the customers and is working with them to address any attendant issues. The BSJ did not test this batch of cement because we conduct regulatory random sampling of cement production. The BSJ is in touch with CCCL and is doing its own testing and analyses”.
Mr. Knight noted further that Mr. Paulwell had taken appropriate action to manage the cement shortage, including removing the tariff on imported cement and sourcing the product from Cuba. “If the Minister has taken this matter to Cabinet, had reported exactly how Cabinet decided to deal with it, how can you now say that he is negligent or that he is in gross dereliction of duty?” Mr. Knight remarked.
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for South Eastern St. Catherine, Dr. Paul Robertson, insisted that Mr. Paulwell had taken appropriate and professional action to address the cement problem, pointing to a study on the operations of CCCL, which had been commissioned by the Minister.
“The Minister lobbied for full hearing on the matter .on December 14, 2005 and at his instigation, the Development Council met and received a full presentation from the cement company,” Dr. Robertson pointed out. The Development Council is subcommittee of Cabinet, which includes all productive ministries, and private sector representation.
In a presentation in the House in March, when concerns over the cement issue were first raised by the Opposition, Mr. Paulwell explained that based on tests conducted by the BSJ on a number of packaged cement that was produced between February 23 and 25, the government had instructed CCCL to withdraw all the cement in that batch.
In relation to other production, Mr. Paulwell said at the time, the Bureau had done checks and found the cement to be “wholesome”.