Entertainment and Culture Minister, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, has dismissed suggestions of nepotism and corruption in her Ministry regarding Jamaica’s Independence activities this year, dubbed ‘Jamaica 55 celebrations’.
The suggestions were made by her Opposition counterpart, Lisa Hanna, in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Ms. Hanna told the House that a ‘culture of extravagance’ has developed at the Ministry led by Grange. But Ms. Grange defended herself and her Ministry in the House of Representatives yesterday.
Minister Grange was initially set to respond to Ms. Hanna’s allegations on May 2 when she’s scheduled to make her contribution to the Sectoral Debate. But the matter was obviously too urgent. Ms. Hanna’s allegations were damning and could seriously hurt the Holness administration.
And so, the Culture Minister came to Parliament yesterday with a robust response, fighting back.
Minister Grange noted that Ms. Hanna has said $440-million was allocated to her Ministry for Emancipendence and Heritage Week celebrations this year.
And, that she claimed only $60-million was allocated to the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) for the promotion of cultural activities.
Further suggesting that corruption had taken place as she questioned where the rest of the money had gone. But Minister Grange says the 2017/2018 Estimates of Expenditure provide the answers.
She says the Estimates show that the $440-million fall under two activities.
Sixty million dollars for the promotion of cultural activities, and $380-million for the celebration of national events. Ms. Grange told the House the entire allocation is to the JCDC.
Ms. Hanna has accused her of hiring a consultant who’s a business partner of one of her senior advisors to assist with the celebrations for the 2016 Grand Gala at a cost of $15-million.
She’s said the consultant’s fee was adopted without negotiation, adding the work he was contracted to do could’ve easily been done by the JCDC at no cost. But Ms. Grange says the consultant in question is the same one used by Ms. Hanna for the Jamaica 50 celebrations in 2012.
She also addressed Ms. Hanna’s claim that her Ministry has been bypassing the JCDC, in ‘favour of personal consultants’.
Minister Grange strongly denied allegations of corruption. She says her Ministry and its agencies are adhering to the government’s procurement rules.
She also claimed that Ms. Hanna has been harassing staff at her Ministry for information.
In the meantime, Opposition Spokesman for Culture, Lisa Hanna, says Minister Grange has failed to properly respond to the concerns she’s raised.
Ms. Hanna says she’ll provide Prime Minister Andrew Holness with the information she has. She responded to Ms. Grange’s statement that she used the same consultant for the 2012 Grand Gala who’s now being used for the upcoming Jamaica 55 celebrations.
She was referring there to the report of the Office of the Contractor General, tabled in the House on Tuesday, which probed the award of contracts for the Jamaica 50 celebrations in 2012.
She also accused Minister Grange of being emotional and frantic.