NIA calls for probe into contract award to CHEC for MoBay bypass

HEAD of the corruption watchdog agency, National Integrity Action (NIA), Professor Trevor Munroe has called on the Integrity Commission to launch a probe into the award of the Montego Bay perimeter project to Chinese Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC).

In a letter to the head of the commission, Greg Christie, yesterday, Munroe argued that by declaring the road project a national development project the Government was going outside of public procurement law in its arrangement with CHEC. “Hence, there has been no tender nor competitive bidding in the award of this project to CHEC and the Public Procurement Commission is thereby excluded from ‘ensuring prudence in the use of public funds’,” he said.The Government has budgeted $1.2 billion this year to start the 25-kilometre project, which is planned for two phases. The National Road Constructing and Operating Company (NROCC) is the lead agency for the project, which falls under the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.Portfolio minister Everald Warmington announced in his sectoral presentation last week that the Government would be seeking approval from Parliament, by way of affirmative resolution, for the signing of the contract for the construction works.

Munroe, however, pointed to numerous past concerns expressed by Christie in his role then as contractor general about the terms under which CHEC has been awarded contracts under previous administrations.

He urged the commission to investigate what mechanism is to be utilised in ensuring value for money in the multi-billion-dollar project, which is to be fully funded by taxpayers. He said the agency should also determine whether the responsible minister received advice and recommendations in accordance with the Public Procurement Act from the Public Procurement Office in declaring the Montego Bay perimeter road project a national development project.

He also called on the commission to “make representations to the Government of Jamaica to publish in full the terms of the agreement with CHEC, including what sanctions, if any, are applicable should CHEC breach any of the terms of the National Development Order”, and ensure that all sub-contracts for the project are awarded competitively, on merit, and without impropriety.Munroe said the NIA understood the need to move swiftly to execute the project, but said that this in no way justifies “doing the right thing in the wrong way, thereby endangering the interest of hard-pressed taxpayers to get value for money as well as potentially undermining Jamaica’s reputation for integrity”.

Minister Warmington stressed that the corridor will improve the worsening traffic situation in the city of Montego Bay. “This programme of works is not just about the bypass road from Ironshore to the AGS Coombs Highway. It is quite a bit more. The project includes the Long Hill Bypass, a drainage study for the city of Montego Bay, as well as improvement in West Green Avenue and Barnett Street,” he said.Surveying contracts for the corridor have already been issued, along with contracts for the valuation of the parcels of land that the Government is to acquire in order to construct the road.





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