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Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller has received and accepted the resignation of the chairman of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), Dr. Vin Lawrence.
Development and Information Minister, Senator Colin Campbell, made the disclosure at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing held on July 24 at Jamaica House.
Reading a statement issued by the Prime Minister, against the background of the recently published report by Contractor General Greg Christie on the Sandals Whitehouse Project, Minister Campbell told journalists that Mrs. Simpson Miller indicated that she had written to the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Audley Shaw, for the committee “to consider at the earliest opportunity, the serious breaches of government’s procurement procedures contained in the Contractor General’s Report on the Sandals Whitehouse Project”.
“These are extremely serious matters, which require a full and public ventilation and I have given my repeated commitment to protect the public interest and ensure full accountability and transparency,” the Prime Minister’s statement further noted.
In regard to Dr. Lawrence’s resignation letter, Minister Campbell said in it, the UDC Chairman noted: “in response to allegations of impropriety on the part of the UDC contained therein, the board of the UDC has issued a comprehensive statement in order to clarify the issues relating to the involvement of the UDC in the project and provide information on all aspects of the project.”
Dr. Lawrence’s correspondence to the Prime Minister further stated: “having set the record straight, I have come to the decision I can best facilitate the fullest airing and examination of the issues raised by bringing the extension of my appointment to an end”.
Responding to the resignation, Prime Minister Simpson Miller expressed gratitude to Dr. Lawrence, on behalf of the Cabinet, for his 17 years of chairmanship of the UDC.
Under his stewardship, the UDC undertook several infrastructure and development projects across the island, including the redevelopment of the National Stadium complex, Dunn’s River Falls, the Grand Lido Negril, as well as several housing projects.
Addressing the issue of the action which government intends to take in light of the breaches of the procurement procedures as it relates to the Sandals Whitehouse project, Minister Campbell told journalists, “we have to proceed bearing in mind, we are awaiting a forensic audit report and also that an action has been filed in the Supreme Court”. The preliminary results of the audit report are expected to be submitted within two weeks, and the final report in a month’s time.
The Contractor General’s Report on the Sandals Whitehouse project was tabled in the House of Representatives on July 18. It recommended that the UDC, with the assistance of the quantity surveyor, be mandated to produce a comprehensive report, detailing, among other things, the rationale and justifications for the changes and cost overruns, associated with the project.
The investigation, which began in January of this year and concluded last month, was initiated following allegations of impropriety, which were made in the media and by the Opposition in the House.
The primary aims of the investigation were to: determine whether there was compliance with any applicable government procurement and contract award procedures; whether there were instances of irregularity or impropriety in the award of contracts; and whether the contracts were awarded impartially and on merit, as well as to determine what the circumstances were behind the alleged overruns in time and cost, in the implementation of the contracts.