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The Hon Olivia Grange, Minister of Information, Culture, Youth & Sports has responded following the announcement by the Office of the Contractor General that it has started investigation into the award of certain government contracts associated with the recent Olympic Athletes Homecoming Week of Celebrations which took place between October 3-10, 2008.
Minister Grange says that she has no difficulty with the Office of the Contractor General conducting its investigations.
She made reference to the Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament that reports on entities exempted from the application of procurement procedure guidelines in addition to being sent to the National Contracts Commission would also be sent to the Office of the Contractor General.
The Minister said that it was unfortunate and misleading that the Contractor General has characterized a directive from the Cabinet as a licence to the Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports to “jettison the standing government procurement procedures when undertaking certain procurements.”
Minister Grange said she also felt it necessary to draw attention to a circular from the Financial Secretary regarding “Exemptions from the Government of Jamaica Handbook of Public Sector Procurement Procedures”.
The Minister said the document outlines inter alia that effective 22nd September, 2008, “Artistic and cultural products and services – works of art, performance services and other cultural and creative products/services” are exempt from procurement procedures.
Minister Grange said that the Circular from the Financial Secretary concluded that “the directives contained in this circular supersede all previous directives addressing these issues.”
Earlier this year, Minister Grange added, the Ministry made a submission to the NCC requesting approval for direct contracting in relation to cultural services. She said the submission was approved by the NCC on the advice of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service.
Minister Grange quoted from the letter dated 22nd May 2008 sent from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service to the NCC which stated that, “The Ministry is of the view that goods and services of an artistic nature must be exempted from the procurement guidelines. Artistic and cultural products are distinguished on the basis of uniqueness and creativity and are unlike other goods and services regularly procured under the procurement guidelines. The Revised Handbook of Procurement Procedures has been amended to reflect this exemption. Until the issuing of the revised Handbook the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service will issue supplementary guidelines to indicate the exclusions.”
Minister Grange said that the Contractor General might wish to take these points into consideration in proceeding.