Searchlight on Ja’s PNP

Jamaica’s Auditor General Adrian Strachan has pledged to investigate allegations that People’s National Party presidential candidate, Peter Phillips, has used money from the National Security Ministry to fund his ‘Solid as a Rock’ campaign.

Similar allegations have also been made against Portia Simpson Miller, another PNP leadership hopeful, who heads the Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Sports and the ‘Team Portia’ campaign, reports the Jamiaca Gleaner.

Tuesday Audley Shaw, Opposition Spokesman on Finance and chairman of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, called on the Auditor General to carry out an immediate investigation into the allegations against both candidates.

In a statement issued yesterday, Mr. Shaw said the Auditor General “has a professional duty and responsibility to immediately investigate these very serious allegations which, if found to be true, would represent a new level of corruption in governance in the country which cannot be tolerated”.

Officials from both ministries, however, quickly slapped down the charges yesterday and dismissed them as unfounded.

“Once it is brought to our attention that allegations of this nature have been made, we would see it as part of our responsibility to do some test checks to satisfy ourselves that things seem to be as it should be,” said Mr. Strachan in response to questions from Mr. Shaw during yesterday’s sitting of the PAC.

“We will be devoting some attention to these concerns but what we can’t promise is that at the end of the exercise we would be issuing any statements,” he added.

Gilbert Scott, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, said that if there was any truth to the claim, he would have been aware of it since he is the chief accounting officer for the Ministry. “I don’t know where the claims originated from,” he told The Gleaner yesterday. “The only thing I’ll say is I, as Permanent Secretary with a directive from the Minister, have written to the Auditor General to come in immediately to do a thorough audit. The letter went to him this morning (yesterday).”

In a report submitted by Team Portia, and signed by deputy campaign manager Paul Burke, to PNP General Secretary Burchell Whiteman at the party’s NEC conference on Sunday, Mrs. Simpson Miller’s campaign team called for an investigation into questions about the misuse of funds from the Ministry of National Security.

On Monday Mr. Shaw, the Opposition Spokesman on Finance, alleged that money from the Local Government Ministry’s Road Maintenance Fund was similarly abused.

However Ann Marie Mittoo, communications officer in Local Government Ministry, said: “As far as I know we haven’t even got the money for the fund from the Ministry of Finance yet.”