Mad rush! - National Security Ministry scrambling to get 100 cars locally for police

The Ministry of National Security is scampering to secure 100 vehicles on the local market "in the shortest possible time" in the wake of an avalanche of criticism by sector groups over a failure by O'Brien's International Car Sales and Rentals Limited to deliver on a contract to supply the Jamaica Constabulary Force with 200 pre-owned vehicles.

To date, the supplier has missed the final deadline of November 24, 2017, to make good on the contractual arrangement to deliver the vehicles to the police force, having failed to hand over the cars and pick-ups within two previous deadlines.

The Gleaner visited the company at 1 Skibo Avenue in Kingston yesterday to give Clement Ebanks, managing director of O'Brien's, the opportunity to respond to concerns that emerged about the contract during a meeting of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) on Wednesday.

An employee of the company told our news team that Ebanks was in office. After introducing The Gleaner team and requesting an interview with Ebanks, the employee went inside an office for a few minutes and returned, telling the news team that "Mr Ebanks was not available at this time". Pressed as to when he would be available to speak, the employee again sought a response and told our news team that "he would not be available for today".

On Wednesday, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Dianne McIntosh told members of the PAAC that she had been informed by Jamaica Customs that 66 vehicles the company had on the wharf were released.

However, it is not clear whether the vehicles have, in fact, been released as a statement from the ministry yesterday said that 66 vehicles were still on the wharf to be cleared.

McIntosh said on Wednesday that a moratorium had been granted by Jamaica Customs so that the vehicles on the wharf could be cleared. She was unable to give details on the terms of the moratorium.

In its first review under the current Standby arrangement with the Jamaican Government, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) made it clear that discretionary tax incentives to specific sectors and business must be avoided.

BONDS ON DEMAND

At the PAAC meeting, McIntosh said that the contractor had said it could not absorb costs associated with General Consumption Tax and Special Consumption Tax and had asked the security ministry to defray the cost.

The ministry said that it was aware that the supplier had vehicles on the wharf but was of the view that it should not pay the taxes unless advised to do so by the Ministry of Finance.

However, according to guidelines received from the finance ministry, as well as legal advice, the security ministry said that it had resolved to wait before pursuing the matter of payment of duties.

In a press release yesterday, the national security ministry also indicated that it had the option of redeeming bonds on demand to recover any financial losses should O'Brien's fail to deliver the vehicles according to the contract.

According to the ministry, it currently holds a performance security bond in the sum of $42.5 million and an advanced payment security totalling $213.5 million.

O'Brien's had received a 50 per cent deposit on the contract, which converts to $213.5 million.

At the same time, Contractor General Dirk Harrison told The Gleaner yesterday that his office had been conducting an investigation into the award of a contract to O'Brien's International Car Sales and Rentals Limited. He said that the information revealed at the PAAC meeting on Wednesday would assist his office in deepening its probe.


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