JFB under fire for contracts to US company

THE Integrity Commission has rapped the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) for failing to report to the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) — now subsumed into the commission — two multi-million US-dollar contracts which were awarded to Rosenbauer Minnesota, in 2013 and 2015, for the provision of six fire trucks.

The commission’s report, tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, said the JFB awarded contracts to Rosenbauer through its local agent, National Safety Limited, for US$1,355,283 in March 2013; and US$1,359,591, in January, 2015, for the procurement of the units utilising the direct contracting procurement method.

“The then accounting and accountable officers of the JFB breached Sections 29 (a) and (b)(ii) of the Contractor General Act as a result of their failure to submit the requisite quarterly contract awards reports to the OCG, advising of the award of two contracts to Rosenbauer Minnesota LLC…for the referenced periods,” the commission’s director of investigations, Kevon Stephenson noted. The Quarterly Contract Award (QCA) database is a web-based system, which facilitated the submission of QCA reports to the OCG, of the particulars of contracts which were awarded by public bodies within specified sums. The reporting requirement became applicable to all classification of government contracts awarded as of May 1, 2006.

According to the report, the JFB’s rationale was that it faced the risk of losing the funding provided in the budget for the purchase of the trucks, as the financial year was coming to an end, and there was an urgent need to acquire the trucks.

It said former JFB Commissioner Errol Mowatt had told the OCG that, having been advised to abort the tender process by the National Contracts Commission (NCC), the Ministry of Local Government had assumed responsibility for the execution of the contract. “Consequently, any decision on matters related to this procurement thereafter was done between the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development and Rosenbauer and/or National Safety.

The director of investigations has recommended that the JFB conducts proper research and due diligence in an effort to ensure value for money, transparency, fairness, competitiveness and accountability in the administration of procurement opportunities.

He has also recommended that the minister of local government develop policies and guidelines for specifications and standards for the procurement of fire trucks and other emergency vehicles, with a view to ensuring that safety and value for money are achieved.

The OCG started the investigation in March 2015 into the procurement processes which led to the award of the contracts, following receipt of a complaint made in January 2015 with the subject “Very disturbing story regarding the Jamaica Fire Brigade and the NCC” and the outlining of certain procurement-related infractions in relation to an allegation that Rosenbauer Minnesota was awarded two contracts by the JFB by way of the sole source procurement, despite the existence of other suppliers in the market.

— Alphea Sumner

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