The Office of the Contractor General (OCG) after an extensive series of interviews with the former mayor of Lucea, Shernet Haughton’s family members and investigations discovered that the former mayor had awarded $3,744,791.00 to eleven of her family members.
The OCG discovered that there was no documented policy or protocol at the Hanover Parish Council that stipulated the procedure and selection and or recommendation for the award of contracts by the councillors and mayor. In other words tax money was literally being divvied out at will by the mayor who clearly has no respect for the hard working tax payers of this country.
The Contractor-General cited breaches by the former mayor of the Parish Council Act sections 99 and 100 and section 40 of the Public Sector Procurement Regulations (2008). The former mayor did not deny any such awards of contracts to her family members and was so unrepentant that she was quoted as saying (paraphrased) she had a diary of events that would bring down the whole Hanover Parish Council. To this day having not had to account for any of her egregiously disgraceful actions this diary remains unexposed.
The training she received as a councillor clearly amounted to naught not to mention the Councillors’ Handbook, a Guide for Jamaican Councillors which was provided by the Ministry of Local Government that she said she hadn’t read. At least we are inclined to believe that one comment out of her mouth.
The short arm of the Director of Public Prosecutions
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) did not file any criminal charges against the former mayor citing inter alia how difficult it is to successfully prosecute beyond a reasonable doubt. She went on to say quote “In any event in order to attempt to get the evidentiary material to ground these missing ingredients the Crown would have to rely on information from these very relatives and other connected person(s) as well as her colleagues within the parish council. It is quite clear from the circumstances outlined in the OCG Report that this information would not be forthcoming.”
No person involved in a criminal investigation who is connected to the accused, especially as in the former mayor’s case, is necessarily going to be forthcoming but the Office of the Contractor General had more than ample statements from his own investigations that the Director of Public Prosecutions didn’t need the former mayor’s family members to give any evidence to ground ‘missing ingredients’.
The DPP went on to cite the common Law- Misconduct in Public Office and the case of R v Dytham  QB 722 which sets out the elements of the offence of misconduct in public office.
She cited the dictum of Lord Widgery CJ who stated the elements of the offence, such as i) a defendant must be a public officer; ii) who willfully neglects; iii) a duty which he is bound by common law or statute to perform; iv) without reasonable excuse or justification; and v) the misconduct impugned is of such degree as to be calculated to injure the public interest so as to call for condemnation and punishment.
It is my considered view that all the elements of the common law offence of misconduct in public office was made out in the circumstances of the former mayor. By awarding contracts with no proper documentation to persons who we do not know have the requisite skills and competence to perform is wilful neglect.
According to the DPP the award of contracts below the threshold of $500,000.00 [as per Circular No. 16 (Ministry of Finance and Planning) means that the regulations only apply where the contract amount is above the approval threshold.
The highest award that was made for a contract consequent on recommendations made by Miss Haughton was for the amount of three hundred thousand dollars ($300,000.00). In these circumstances the DPP held the view that section 40 of the Public Sector Procurement Regulations does not apply.
But that is to make a mockery of the regulations. The intent of the legislators is ensure that any contract above $500,000.00 was to be put to the proper method of procurement. In the case of the former mayor’s brother-in-law, Petan Grant, he was awarded contracts as follows:- (i) $300,000.00 on 27.11.2012, (ii) $245,607.60 on 25.01.2013 (iii) $161,700.00 on 28.06.2013, (iv) $147,000.00 on 28.06.2013 (v) $245,000.00 on 03.05.2013 (vi) $250,620.00 on 02.01.2013 making a grand total of $1,349,927.60.
So this is one person who was awarded contracts in the aggregate of above $500,000.00. Laws are made to be applied sensibly and within the spirit of the law and to me this was a clear breach of section 38 of the Public Sector Procurement Regulations (2008).
The European Union has provided for public contracts in this way when they are divided up so as to fall below the threshold.
13. Aggregation rules and thresholds
13.2 Where a single work involves more than one contract, the estimated value of all the contracts must be aggregated to decide whether the threshold is reached.
13.3 In determining whether the threshold has been or is likely to be reached for public supplies or services contracts, the rules require aggregation.
Pay back the money former mayor’s family and friends
It is also my considered view that the former mayor and her family and friends should pay back to the people of Jamaica all the money she awarded to her family and friends.
Sections 99 and 100 of the Parish Council Act stipulates: “ A contract entered into between a Parish Council and any councillor thereof or in which any such councillor is pecuniarily interested, whether directly or indirectly, whether the contract be made before or after he became a councillor of such Council, shall be null and void; unless— (a) if made after he became such councillor it has been entered into with the express sanction; or (b) if made before he became such councillor, it has received, prior to his nomination as a candidate, the subsequent approval, of the Minister.”
The DPP went on to cite that according to the OCG Report, when members of the Parish Council were questioned they stated that they were unaware that Miss Haughton was related to persons who formed the basis of this complaint.
We are to believe that in the little town of Lucea, the Hanover Parish Council did not know the relationship of these family members to the former mayor, and seemingly had no interest in knowing these persons’ skill and competence in carrying out public works with public money.
This highly unbelievable state of affairs when juxtaposed against the former mayor’s threat to expose the Hanover Parish Council by revealing her diary brings the entire Hanover Parish Council into complete ridicule, if not worse, and the DPP has allowed the former mayor to get away with clear acts of corruption.