Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer, has said that the Independent Oversight Panel (IOP) appointed by Cabinet will not intrude on the authority of the Office of the Contractor General.
She said the body, which will provide oversight for three major infrastructure projects being undertaken by the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, will, in fact, strengthen transparency on the part of the government.
“They are offering oversight, and I don’t see this, at all, as interfering with the job of the Contractor General. To me, they will strengthen the ability of the government to ensure that these major projects, in terms of what we have promised the people of Jamaica, grow the economy and create jobs,” she stated.
The Minister was addressing journalists on Wednesday May 2 Jamaica House press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister.
Senator Falconer argued that, “the bigger loss to Jamaica would be if the projects are held up for inordinately long periods of time… (or if) these investors get frustrated with the process and they decide that they are not going to invest. Money is not readily available everyday for big projects, and I believe we have to strike while the iron is hot. Cabinet has looked at the three-member committee and we believe it is the right approach”.
She stressed that the approach being undertaken “is not one where we are competing with what the Contractor General does, or are ignoring the Contractor General. The two can work hand in hand, and I see it as a good thing for Jamaica”.
Meanwhile, speaking to the concerns raised by the Contractor General about international contractor, China Harbour Engineering Company’s operations in other jurisdictions, she said the administration is not rushing ahead with any arrangement with the company, and that the ongoing discussions are preliminary.
“Nothing has been cast in stone…at this time, it is not appropriate to cast aspersions on the way a company operates – a company that has been doing business with us for a while,” she stated.
On April 24, Works Minister, Hon. Dr. Omar Davies told the House of Representatives that the government had decided to take the necessary steps towards the implementation of three major infrastructure works, which are critical to the country’s future development.
The three projects are the North-South link of Highway 2000; the Gordon Cay Container Transshipment Hub; and the Fort Augusta Terminal. Cabinet subsequently approved the establishment of the IOP to expand the framework for the monitoring of contracts for the projects.
The panel comprises, Professor, Hon. Gordon Shirley, Hon. R. Danny Williams and Everton McDonald.
In terms of payment, the Minister has indicated that the members will be reimbursed for expenses only.
By Alphea Saunders, JIS Senior reporter