Transport Minister, Robert Montague, has dissolved the boards of the Airport Authority of Jamaica and the Norman Manley International Airport in order to facilitate investigations into the purchase of shares in First Rock Capital Holdings.
He made the disclosure in the House of Representatives last evening.
The minister and the government have come under fire over the multi-million US dollar share purchase using taxpayer funding in what’s believed to be a breach of public body guidelines.
However, the minister says this does not seem to have been a deliberate act on the part of either board.
Wayne Walker tells us more.
Transport Minister Robert Montague says while the majority of members of the AAJ and NMIA have tendered their resignations in the interest of good governance, he’s moved to dissolve the body in its entirety.
Both entities have faced withering criticism for the purchase of shares in First Rock Capital Holdings, a move that Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke has since told the Parliament was in contravention to government guidelines.
The minister says the current board which was convened after the share purchase has shown their commitment to proper administration through their offer to resign.
Minister Montague in addressing the investment says the Airport Authority of Jamaica was initially unaware of updated government guidelines which required Ministry of Finance approval in order to purchase the shares.
He says at the time, the entity was confident that its own amended policy to facilitate the share purchase would receive no objection from said ministry.
The minister concludes that the authority did not deliberately breach public body rules.
The minister also downplayed a supposed Conflict of Interest involving a member of the AAJ who owned a stake in First Rock.
He says the share price was less than one per cent of the total value of shares and this was not considered material enough to represent a conflict.
Another concern was identified on the board of the NMIA where the brother of the Chairman was a director in the said company.
However, the minister says based on the time frame this did not represent a conflict of interest.
And, the Opposition slammed the government’s handling of the AAJ and NMIA issue to date.
Opposition Spokesman on Transport, Mikhail Phillips, questioned Mr. Montague on his tardiness in addressing the concerns.
He chastised Minister Montague for, what he calls, attempting to defend the previous Chairman of the AAJ.
Mikael Phillips, Opposition Spokesman on Transport.
He was speaking in the House of Representatives last evening.
Meanwhile, the minister noted that the shares bought at a unit price of US 10 cents each has a total value of US $2.9 million, as at November 2021.
The shares still held by the AAJ and NMIA are only valued US 7 US cents each.
But Minister Montague says while the investment is being reconsidered there’s no intention to quickly sell them off in a fire sale.
Robert Montague, Minister of Transport and Mining.