Thursday, October 25, 2007

Shady deal - Probe ordered into free Cuban light bulb distribution in Jamaica

Shady deal - Probe ordered into free Cuban light bulb distribution in
published: Wednesday | October 24, 2007
Daraine Luton, Staff Reporter

THE CONTRACTOR General and the Auditor General have been asked to
investigate the circumstances under which the last People's National
Party (PNP) government accrued a bill of more than $276.5 million in the
distribution of free Cuban light bulbs.

In a statement to Parliament yesterday, Clive Mullings, Minister of
Energy, Mining and Telecommunications, said the matter requires the
"most thorough investigation".

"Accordingly, the Government has requested the Auditor General to
conduct a detailed audit of all expenditure in respect of this project,"
Mr. Mullings said.

He added, "We have also invited the Contractor General to investigate
the circumstances in which such huge payments were made to these
suppliers without the required procurement procedures being followed."

The PNP administration had embarked on a programme to replace
incandescent bulbs in households with the more efficient compact
fluorescent bulbs.

The Cuban Government had donated four million of these bulbs. The then
Government was required to meet the cost of clearance, storage and
delivery of the bulbs as well as the transportation of the Cuban volunteers.

An incestuous relationship

However, in his presentation yesterday, Mr. Mullings left little doubt
that an incestuous relationship may have existed in the awarding of the
contracts relating to the distribution of bulbs.

Mr. Mullings said Universal Management and Development Company Ltd.,
which he said was incorporated just about the time the delivery
commenced in 2006, was due over $85.6 million.

He added that Caribbean Communication Media Network Ltd., which the
Government paid over $3.3 million for its services, was incorporated a
week before Universal Management and Development Company Limited. The
minister said the sole shareholder and director of each company was the

"The services for which Universal Management and Development Company
Ltd. was paid were not tendered and no evidence can be found of any
contract having been awarded to this company in relation to the
project," Mr. Mullings said.

Mr. Mullings said that he was informed by officers at the Ministry that
the implementation of the project was carried out "on the periphery" of
the ministry and was not subjected to its normal internal management,
accounting and audit controls.

"Instead, the project was handled by a monitoring committee chaired by
the then Minister of State [Kern Spencer]. Payments in respect of
invoices submitted were made by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica on
the instructions of the then chairman of the board," Mullings said.

Mr. Spencer was the minister entrusted with the responsibility of the
light bulb distribution project. Phillip Paulwell, who was the minister
in charge of the ministry, asked Mullings whether he was aware of the
value of the light bulbs to which Mullings responded: "The value would
not be germain ... the end does not justify the means".

Seemingly aware that Mr. Mullings was due to make the presentation,
Spencer had a multi-page prepared response.

However, as he was preparing to address the House, some opposition
members cautioned him and he yielded.

Mr. Mullings said that the Auditor General has already begun his

"As soon as possible a report will be presented and let the chips fall
where they may," Mr. Mullings said.

The Government has already paid out $114 million to the creditors but
the remainder has been stayed pending the outcome of a recommendation
from the Attorney General's Department.

It costs approximately $69 for both Jamaican and Cuban volunteers to
deliver and install each of the four million light bulbs, which had an
estimated value of between $1.5 and $2 billion



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