The Integrity Commission says it cannot be certain there was impropriety regarding the granting of a spiny lobster fishing license in 2011 to the stepbrother of then Agriculture Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton.
According to a report of the Integrity Commission that was tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday the Commission says it cannot conclude the process was free of irregularity. The Integrity Commission says in July of 2011 it was made aware of certain allegations regarding the issuance of Industrial Lobster Fishery licences to family members of a Government Minister.
The Commission says a letter it received alleges that a ministerial decree called for all licenses to be activated or vacancies would be created for new members. The letter went on to state that the members learnt this vacancy was to facilitate Minister Tufton’s relatives. The relatives in question are a Ewan Stephenson who is the step-brother of Minister Tufton and a Delano Stephenson who is the Brother of the Minister’s stepbrother.
Allegations are that Ewan Stephenson was granted a license being new to the industry, owning no fishing vessels, having no history in the industry and having no investment in the fishing sector.
The Integrity Commission has concluded that both individuals did apply for licenses for the 2011-2012 lobster fishing season.
However, only Ewan Stephenson, was successful in his application. The Integrity Commission says there was a clear contradiction between the publicly advertised requirement that fishing vessels should be of Jamaican ownership and the policy position which was later adopted allowing foreign-owned vessels.
The Commission says that did not lend itself to fairness and consequently could have dissuaded or disadvantaged potential applicants.
The Commission also says there is uncertainty regarding the precise date on which the application for the Lobster Fishing license from Mr. Stephenson was received by the Ministry.
The Commission has noted that Dr. Tufton was careful to indicate that he did not recall ever being approached by Ewan Stephenson in relation to an application for the referenced licence.
However, it says he was forthright in stating that he was never approached by Delano Stephenson in the same regard.
The Commission says from the information reviewed, it is unable to conclude that there was any impropriety in the award of a licence to Ewan Stephenson.
It says however, given previously stated inconsistencies the process cannot be reasonably considered to be devoid of irregularity. But, the Commission says it has found no evidence to indicate the involvement of then Minister Tufton in the approval process.