Kingston, December 20, 2017:
The PNPYO is this morning, questioning the judgment of the Prime Minister to appoint, in good conscience, Aubyn Hill as the Executive Director of the Economic Growth Council. This is another example of Mr. Holness disregard for national institutions that have been established to ensure accountability, transparency and good governance in the conduct and operations of government, and to protect the assets of taxpayers. It also continues a worrying trend by Mr. Holness to ignore and blatantly disregard the recommendations from these institutions, namely the Office of the Contractor General (OCG), and most recently the Office of the Political Ombudsman – to whom he recently intimated that he’s not answerable. The truth is, Mr. Hill’s history suggests that he, at best, does not recognize conflicts of interest in the operations of government, and it further appears that based on a most recent ruling by the OCG, in such situations, he operates above basic good governance; and at worse, on too many occasions as further outlined by the OCG, have found himself in questionable transactions as it relates to the responsibilities of holding and operating in a public position.
The Office of the Contractor General, in 2009, investigated Mr. Hill for impropriety for contracts awarded to him, by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, whilst in the capacity of Chairman of the board of SCJ Holdings. It was later concluded that not only did SCJ Holdings hold Government Assets being divested, but also that Mr. Hill and or Corporate Strategies was awarded Government contracts to the sum of 27 million dollars.
It was found and concluded that the consultancy contracts awarded, which were improperly represented by the then Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Permanent Secretary, and Mr. Hill as ‘contracts of employment’, were in breach of the:
1. Government Procurement Procedure Handbook (May 2001) in that the National Contract Commission (NCC) had not approved the first contract; and
2. Revised Government Procurement Procedure Handbook (Nov 2008) in that the second contract had not undertaken the competitive tender process and the actual date of commencement preceded the effective date of contract, which means it had been executed before its approval.
The OCG concluded further, that the actions of Mr. Hill equated at the very minimum to a conflict of interest, and that he knowingly placed himself in this situation since it is, self-evident that Mr. Hill, as the Consultant, would have been reporting to himself in his capacity as the Chairman and/or member of both SCJ and SCJ Holdings.
In another OCG Report dated October 2008, the question arose as to whether Mr. Hill had demitted, or in the process of demitting, the office of director of the DBJ; and whether DBJ had conducted ‘at sufficient arm’s length’, the leasing of a property owned by the DBJ to NationGrowth Micro Finance Limited for which Mr. Hill was also the Chairman. The OCG found a proposal made by Mr. Hill to the DBJ while he was a director, to lease the property to NationGrowth, but later presented to the DBJ board by a colleague of his, to be ‘highly irregular’ since Mr. Hill would have had a personal interest and ‘flagrantly contravened’ the normal process by which the DBJ would take submissions of, evaluate and approve business proposals.
Mr. Hill was said to be in contravention of the:
1. Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act; and
2. Jamaica Development Bank Act.
It is upon these revelations of the formal reports of the Office of the Contractor General dated October 2008, and September 2010, and declarations made by the Prime Minister of the appointment of Mr. Hill as advisor to the Minister of Finance, that the PNPYO questions the appointment of Mr. Hill to such a commission charged with the fulsome task of advising the GOJ as to initiatives and sub-initiatives to yield Economic Growth.
In our opinion a less impugned candidate could have been appointed in light of the OCG’s recommendation that Mr. Hill be barred from serving on any GOJ Board of Directors. We are even more particularly concerned with this appointment as Mr. Hill in speaking at the event where the Prime Minister gave public notification of his new public role, stared that he intends to work with every Permanent Secretary to manage and monitor government expenditure. The PNPYO therefore calls on the Prime Minister to rescind Mr. Hill’s appointment and to begin with this move to draw a line in the sand as it relates to the test of transparency and good governance in the conduct of public life. We saw it in the FLA operations, there are questions emerging within the Police Car Scandal as well, and we saw it with the Finance Ministers $8m phone Bill.