Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Hon. Dr. Omar Davies, is defending the decision to establish an Independent Oversight Panel (IOP), which will, among other things, monitor three critical infrastructure projects.
In a statement to the House of Representatives on Tuesday (April 24), Dr. Davies announced that Cabinet had given the go ahead for the continuation of three projects- the North-South link of Highway 2000; the Gordon Cay Container Transshipment Hub; and the Fort Augusta Container Terminal.
Speaking on the JIS programme, ‘Issues and Answers’, Dr. Davies said the development of these programmes will lead to significant development opportunities in the country.
“There are serious issues relating to timing. The proposal from the Chinese (regarding the North-South link of Highway 2000) is not there waiting in perpetuity and there are deadlines which have to be adhered to. So, what I have done, with the full backing of Cabinet, I have submitted the proposals to the National Contracts Commission, which has jurisdiction, and they have determined two things – they have given us no objection…they have also indicated that they consider these projects as investment projects, not procurement projects,” the Minister emphasised.
In relation to the duplication of the roles of the Office of Contractor General (OCG), Dr. Davies said the Contractor General has its role to play and there is no attempt to block him in doing that, “but this is not simple about investigations and probing, it is a question of economic development."
Principal and Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Professor Gordon Shirley will chair the IOP. Other members are retired Territory Senior Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Everton McDonald; and businessman, the Hon. R. Danny Williams.
The OCG, headed by Greg Christie, had expressed concerns regarding the three projects.
“I have no problem in the Contractor General posing his questions and investigating, but I have a bigger obligation to Cabinet to make projects happen and what we are seeking to do, is to discharge that obligation, but also to reassure the public that there is also an independent grouping who, on behalf of the public, will carry that out. So, we must shy away from the notion that there is only one person or office that can do that,” Dr. Davies said.
The IOP will also ensure that the methodologies provided for in the Procurement Procedures are upheld in the implementation and management of the projects.
In his address to Parliament, Dr. Davies said: “In reporting to me, it is expected that the IOP will, alongside the respective established authorities/bodies, strengthen the oversight capacity and capabilities of the Ministry and its agencies in the implementation of large scale infrastructural development projects."
The Minister further noted that the IOP will consult with the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ), the Ministry of Finance and Planning, and any other stakeholder on critical matters, “but is decidedly independent to facilitate greater levels of transparency."
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter