OCG probe of dis­tri­bu­tion of farm sup­plies de­layed

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Read full story at www.ja­maica-gleaner.com Jo­van Johnson Staff Re­porter jo­van.johnson@glean­erjm.com

FOR NOW, the main anti-cor­rup­tion body, the Of­fice of the Con­trac­tor Gen­eral (OCG), will not be called to probe whether the Ja­maica Labour Party (JLP) ad­min­is­tra­tion has been fa­cil­i­tat­ing the par­ti­san dis­tri­bu­tion of mil­lions of dol­lars worth of farm sup­plies through the so-called Pro­duc­tion and Mar­ket­ing Or­gan­i­sa­tions (PMOs).

Yes­ter­day, Dr Wyke­ham Mc­Neill, chair­man of the Par­lia­ment’s Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee (PAAC), yielded to the cries from op­po­si­tion mem­bers for fur­ther checks be­fore the OCG was in­vited.

Mc­Neill was in­sis­tent on get­ting the anti-cor­rup­tion body af­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Ru­ral Agri­cul­tural De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (RADA), which op­er­ates the 628 PMOs, could not ex­plain, among other things, how money was be­ing al­lo­cated to the groups, which are sup­posed to be made up of reg­is­tered farm­ers.

Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of RADA Peter Thomas and act­ing Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary in the Agri­cul­ture Min­istry Regi­nald Bud­han led the team that faced the PAAC. RADA falls un­der the min­istry headed by Karl Sa­muda with as­sis­tance from J.C. Hutchin­son, min­is­ter with­out port­fo­lio and St El­iz­a­beth North West­ern mem­ber of par­lia­ment.

UN­REG­IS­TERED GROUPS

The dis­clo­sure of un­reg­is­tered groups first came from Manch­ester South­ern rep­re­sen­ta­tive Michael Stewart, who al­leged that dis­tri­bu­tion was be­ing done on a par­ti­san ba­sis. “The thing seems to be shrouded in a lot of se­crecy and op­er­at­ing in what I would term a very clan­des­tine man­ner. There are 21 PMOs in South Manch­ester. So far, $1.3 mil­lion was dis­trib­uted among farm­ers, [and] I note that the dis­tri­bu­tion is con­cen­trated to my op­po­si­tion (coun­ter­part). That is what is used as scarce ben­e­fits.” There was more. Manch­ester North West­ern rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mikael Phillips, using his con­stituency as ex­am­ple, pointed out to the RADA rep­re­sen­ta­tives that their list of reg­is­tered PMOs did not con­tain some groups to which funds had been al­lo­cated.

“I’ve never known a farmer’s group in Hastey­good, yet still the farmer’s group there has col­lected $100,000. And then you have John’s Hall, who has got twice. On what ba­sis? I even spoke to one chair­man. You have it down here that they had re­ceived $100,000. When I spoke to chair­man of the group, he said he knows noth­ing of it.”

In­for­ma­tion from RADA’s re­port sub­mit­ted to the PAAC showed that the names of eight St El­iz­a­beth groups to which $2.1 mil­lion had been al­lo­cated on Septem­ber 26 were not on the of­fi­cial list of reg­is­tered groups.

Mean­while, the re­port re­vealed a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the num­ber of groups in St El­iz­a­beth and West­more­land over the pe­riod March to Au­gust. PMOs in St El­iz­a­beth moved from 35 to 92, up to Au­gust. For West­more­land, the fig­ure in­creased by 75, from 45 in March to 120.

Mc­Neill, the MP for West­more­land West­ern, said the changes were “trou­bling”.

MC­NEILL

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