A report on the findings of a probe by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament into the operations of the state owned National Housing Corporation (NHC) will soon be made public, PAC Chairman and Opposition Leader Mia Mottley revealed today.
While not disclosing a precise date for the release of the report, Mottley told the monthly business luncheon of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry at Hilton Barbados Resort this afternoon that the committee was currently wading through loads of documented evidence and would release the findings “at some point very shortly”.
“The Public Accounts Committee has been working. There have been over 48 meetings. But in addition to that, we have evidence about four-foot high on the National Housing Corporation . . . and a report will come out at some point very shortly. We are going through the evidence now,” she said, while stating that the committee needed much more support than it was currently receiving.
“You can’t do these things on a part-time, voluntary basis and expect to make progress, and that’s part of the difficulty,” she said.
The PAC comprises Mottley as chairman, and includes Opposition parliamentarians Dale Marshall, Dr Jerome Walcott, and Wilfred Abrahams, as well as Government representatives Minister of Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, Minister of Agriculture and Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick, and senators Maxine McLean, Jepter Ince and Darcy Boyce.
Mottley revealed little to nothing about the investigation. However, back in 2010, during debate in the House of Assembly on a resolution to vest Crown land in the housing agency, she had pledged to investigate all contracts and projects awarded by the corporation between December 2008 and August 2010, following the sacking of then NHC chairman Marilyn Rice-Bowen, who had raised serious questions about the award process.
Three years later, Mottley asked the state entity to account for over $40 million received in monthly advances without parliamentary approval.
In 2013, as it investigated the advances to NHC from the Ministry of Finance, as well as a string of anomalies that were brought to light in its first public meeting, the PAC had summoned three top Government officials attached to the Ministry of Housing and the corporation following concerns expressed in the Auditor General’s report about the submission of NHC audits for 2008-2011.
Under intense questioning from Mottley in the Senate Chamber, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Housing Ronald Bascombe, NHC General Manager Lanette Napoleon-Young, Financial Controller Carolyn Barton and Chief Legal Officer Henrietta Bourne-Forde admitted that the corporation had substantially increased its staff in the last six years, had rejected a bid by a construction firm in favour of another company charging $5 million more, and was insolvent.