G2K described as disturbing, reports in the media regarding the establishment of shops in the Spalding Market and the alleged interference of the Minister of State and Member of Parliament, Mr. Richard Azan. The organisation has called upon the Prime Minister to immediately address the issue.
“With the Mayor of May Pen alleging political interference from a Minister of State, it is critical that the Prime Minister launch a full investigation into the matter. If the allegations are in fact proven to be true, the Prime Minister must act swiftly as Members of Parliament ought not to be allowed to flout the rules and disregard the concepts of transparency and probity. This has been a long standing problem with our politics and we must put an end to it” said Floyd Green President of Generation 2000
The organisation noted that the reports thus far call into question the process by which it was decided that the particular contractor would build the shops on Land controlled by the Parish Council, and the relationship between Mr. Azan and the contractor stemming from reports that monies were paid into the office of the Member of Parliament.
“The allegations reek of corruption and will continue to fuel the perception that Jamaica is a corrupt country. The PM must act decisively to convince Jamaicans and the International community that she is serious about removing corruption from Governance.” added Green
The organisation called upon the PM to immediately indicate:
- Whether the construction of the shops were put to tender?
- Whether the shops were constructed from government funds?
- Whether the construction of the shops was granted the necessary Parish Council Approval and if the requisite application fees were paid?
- Whether the Mayor attempted to get the Council to approve payment for the construction of the shops after they had been constructed?
- The amount of monies collected thus far from the rental and who they were paid to?
- Who authorisied a member of the office staff of Mr. Azan to collect money on behalf of the contractor?
- A detailed account of all the projects that this contractor has been awarded in the constituency since January 2012
SUNDAY GLEANER REPORT
Mystery shops and a meddling minister – Contractor collecting rent for buildings in Spalding Market; rent money paid to agent at government minister’s constituency office
Published: Sunday | April 7, 2013
Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
There is something odd about the recently renovated Spalding Market which is owned and operated by the Clarendon Parish Council.
A contractor, with alleged ties to the governing People’s National Party, constructed shops to the rear of the market and rented them to vendors without permission from the parish council.
To compound the matter, the vendors were told to pay the monthly rent at the North West Clarendon constituency office of the member of parliament and state minister in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Richard Azan.
The Clarendon Parish Council had no knowledge of the rent agreement and gave no approval and this has sparked a probe by the police.
A member of the council has also written to Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis asking her to investigate why money that should have been going into the parish council’s coffers was being collected by an employee at Azan’s constituency office.
Late last week, Azan told The Sunday Gleaner that he was aware of some of the details.
According to Azan, when the refurbishing of the market was taking place, he tried to see if he could find investors to put their money into the construction of the shops.
“They (the investors) were reluctant as they did not want to be collecting rent from the occupants of the shops. They were just not interested. So the contractor was approached and he agreed to build the shops,” said Azan.
The member of parliament added that when the issue of rental of the shops came about, the contractor did not want to have anything to do with collecting the money and “that’s how the employee in my office became involved, acting as the go-between and collecting the rent on his behalf”.
“As of now, I will not get myself involved in any more problems pertaining to the Clarendon Parish Council because there are some in the council who feel that the town should remain dirty like how they left it.
“I am having no more discussion on the matter because this seems to be an effort to retain the nastiness in the town,” declared Azan.
He said talks had been initiated about how much the contractor would pay the council and these were still ongoing.
The rental agreements that were issued to the vendors for the wooden structures without electricity, piped water and bathroom facilities show the owner of the shops as John Bryant, the contractor who did phase one of the repair of the market.
A copy of the contract obtained by The Sunday Gleaner showed that the tenants were charged $5,000 per month with a security deposit of $5,000.
The rental agreement states that “all rents and notices are to (be) given at the North West Clarendon constituency office”.
In cases of emergency, tenants were instructed to contact Bridget Dixon-Daley, an employee at the constituency office, and Bryant.
When contacted initially by a member of our news team, Bryant said that the shops were no longer under his control.
“To tell you the truth, to get one of the little shops them you have to go through the parish council in May Pen. I am out of it now. It turn over to the parish council,” he said.
Later Bryant admitted that he had rented the shops.
“The lady that collected the money didn’t collect it for the North West (Clarendon constituency office), she collected it for me. A me ask her to do it for me,” he said.
“A me do the finishing up of the market, I was the contractor. Some vendors who they wanted off the road suggest to me about (building) the shops and I said okay I would do something temporary for them, but it would be handed over to the parish council. It was the people and me idea,” added Bryant.
He admitted that no prior approval was sought or granted by the parish council to construct the shops on its property and charge rent for them.
Bryan claimed that a $500 commission was paid to a third party from each rent payment.
“I admitted to them (the parish council) and the investigators that I went about it the wrong way (and) I stopped collecting rent in March,” said Bryant as he noted that he is yet to turn over any of the rent money to the parish council.
When asked if the member of parliament was aware of the operation, Bryant said he was not sure.
“To tell you the God truth, I don’t know if Mr Azan knew.”
When contacted, the employee, Daley-Dixon, said she has been told that the shops are now under the control of the Clarendon Parish Council.
Paid at constituency office
One former tenant told The Sunday Gleaner that between September last year and January of this year she paid her rent at Azan’s constituency office.
“What I had to do in January is give up my shop because there was no light down there for $5,000 a month and we couldn’t afford it. But I am interested in getting back a shop,” she told our news team.
However, when our news team visited the market last week, wires were seen from some shops to the electricity supply which is paid for by the parish council.
Meanwhile, Milton Brown, former mayor of May Pen, told our news team that the matter was brought to his attention about two months ago.
“I didn’t know on what basis they were built. It came up at a parish council meeting; someone asked how they were being rented,” he recalled.
“It was said that they are privately owned. I wondered what was the arrangement and if the council was being compensated,” added Brown, the councillor for the MineralHeights division in the parish.
Brown said the council’s superintendent of roads and works was instructed to do an estimate in order to compensate the contractor who built the shops.
That suggestion did not go down well with “some councillors on the opposition side who said he should be jailed and not compensated”.