Om­buds­man de­mands info on $600m bush­ing work; Por­tia ques­tioned

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter jo­van.john­son@glean­erjm.com

PO­LIT­I­CAL OM­BUDS­MAN Donna Parch­ment Brown has writ­ten to Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness de­mand­ing in­for­ma­tion on a con­tentious $600-mil­lion bush-clear­ing work pro­gramme which the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party (PNP) claims is be­ing used to buy sup­port for next Mon­day’s lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions.

PNP Pres­i­dent Por­tia Simp­son Miller was also ques­tioned by the om­buds­man for al­leged vi­o­lence-in­cit­ing com­ments she made dur­ing a party meet­ing in St Ann South East­ern last week.

The PNP had writ­ten to Parch­ment Brown’s of­fice for its in­ter­ven­tion, ar­gu­ing that the bush-clear­ing pro­gramme by­passed its councillors and mem­bers of par­lia­ment and was in breach of the Po­lit­i­cal Code of Con­duct.

“I have writ­ten to the leader of the Ja­maica Labour Party (JLP) ask­ing for fur­ther and bet­ter par­tic­u­lars, both in his ca­pac­ity as the leader of the party as well as prime min­is­ter and the min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for the Min­istry of Eco­nomic Growth, un­der whose port­fo­lio I’m ad­vised that the bush­ing work is be­ing con­ducted,” she told The Gleaner.

AL­LOW DUE PROCESS

The trained me­di­a­tor said peo­ple who are up­set about the sit­u­a­tion should al­low due process to take place.

“We must find out what was the in­ten­tion of the pro­gramme. Are there, in fact, any breaches or not, and if there are breaches, is the Govern­ment able to ad­dress those breaches in a timely man­ner? I may form the view at the end that there has been no breach. How­ever, at this time, I’m ask­ing for in­for­ma­tion and some com­ments from the prime min­is­ter on this mat­ter.”

Dr Ho­race Chang, JLP gen­eral sec­re­tary and min­is­ter in the growth min­istry, has said the tim­ing of the de-bush­ing work and the elec­tions is “co­in­ci­den­tal”. The pro­gramme is needed, es­pe­cially in light of the re­cent heavy rains, Chang told RJR on Mon­day.

Min­is­ter of state in the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter with re­spon­si­bil­ity for Works, Ever­ald Warm­ing­ton, de­clined to com­ment yes­ter­day, say­ing he was busy help­ing his coun­cil­lor-can­di­dates with their cam­paigns. “On Mun­roe Road and Old Hope Road (in St An­drew), per­sons bush­ing can vis­i­bly be seen in their green party shirts. The PNP will also be bring­ing this se­ri­ous mat­ter to the at­ten­tion of the Of­fice of the Con­trac­tor Gen­eral and the po­lit­i­cal om­buds­man,” the PNP has said in a state­ment. Mean­while, Stephen Shaw, man­ager of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the Na­tional Works Agency (NWA), which is im­ple­ment­ing the pro­gramme, said there is no time­line of the de-bush­ing pro­gramme to end. “It’s a drain-clean­ing and bush­ing pro­gramme across the coun­try. There is a list of cor­ri­dors that are to be done, and the work will con­tinue as long as that list re­mains to be ex­hausted. The NWA does bush­ing and drain-clean­ing ac­tiv­i­ties ev­ery year,” he said, con­firm­ing that the pro­gramme will cost $600 mil­lion. Mean­while, the po­lit­i­cal om­buds­man said Simp­son Miller ac­knowl­edged in a meet­ing yes­ter­day she could have han­dled the sit­u­a­tion in St Ann bet­ter. Parch­ment Brown added that the PNP head should write to her out­lin­ing any cor­rec­tive ac­tion she may take.

PARCH­MENT BROWN

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