The state-owned National Housing Corporation (NHC) executed a contract with developer Mark Maloney’s Villages at Bushy Park SRL company in 2013 without authorization from the NHC board.
This is evidence recorded in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament for 2013 – 2018, a 74-page report which members of the House of Assembly formally acknowledged in the Lower Chamber today.
“Contrary to the established and required practice, the MOU [memorandum of understanding] with respect to Bushy Park, was executed even though there was no board resolution authorizing the same. Indeed, the chairman of the NHC wrote the acting general manager on the 12th February 2013, informing him that he was instructed on 8th February by the Minister of Housing Michael Lashley that the memorandum of understanding between the NHC and The Villages at Bushy Park SRL be prepared and executed ‘as expeditiously as possible,’” the PAC report disclosed.
The committee notes that the instruction in the letter from the minister to the chairman came less than two weeks before the date of the general election.
It also said that the then permanent secretary in the Ministry of Housing Ronald Bascombe told the PAC during hearings that as member of the board, no one gave him any notice there was an MOU for consideration of the board or was there any meeting set up.
Bascombe, the report continued, had no evidence that negotiations did “in truth and in fact” take place between
the parties and that there was no evidence of a board resolution.
The committee noted that the two-page MOU was signed by Mark Maloney and witnessed by one Roger A. Edghill on behalf of Villages at Bushy Park SRL and chairman of the NHC Anthony Wiltshire and witnessed by a Roger Ward.
Evidence also emerged that this correspondence which the chairman handed to the then acting general manager on March 15, 2013 from Lashley happened at a time when he was no longer Minister of Housing and occurred three days after the general election. It noted that Lashley was then Minister of Transport and Works.
In its recommendations, the PAC urged that further action be taken by the appropriate organs of Government by way of investigation, with a view to making additional recommendations where relevant and if necessary, for instituting criminal or civil proceedings against anyone guilty of wrongdoing.
“The Committee further recommends that where appropriate, all necessary steps be taken against individuals whose conduct has constituted misconduct in public office in order to recover any compensation due and owing to the Crown and arising as a result of losses sustained from such misconduct,” the report suggested.
It is also recommended that ministers of Government must not sign contracts purporting to bind the State and expose it to legal and/or financial liability in the absence of the review and approval of the Solicitor General and/or the Attorney General and in the absence of Cabinet’s approval.
The House of Assembly this afternoon postponed further consideration of debate on the PAC report.