Integrity Commission probe also linked another former board member
The Integrity Commission has called out two former Board Members of Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ), including the newly-appointed Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Zavia Mayne, for conflict of interest.
This is in relation to the purchase of 200 acres of land at Caymanas Estate by the FCJ from the Urban Corporation of Jamaica (UDC) in June 2011. The other former FCJ Director identified by the Commission during its probe concerning allegations of impropriety, irregularities and conflict of interest at the FCJ, is Robert Ramsey.
During its probe, the Integrity Commission, one of Jamaica’s anti-corruption bodies through its Director of Investigations, Kevon A. Stephenson concluded that Messrs. Mayne and Ramsay were hired as attorneys by the FCJ whilst serving as board directors to undertake the land purchase from the UDC for J$900-million.
Hiring of Mayne and Ramsay
The decision to buy the property resulted from Cabinet Decision 03/11 for the development of the 200 acres of Caymanas lands ‘National Priority’ status and required that all the relevant state agencies facilitate its implementation with urgency. On April 1, 2011, the Board of Directors of the FCJ approved the appointment of Mayne and Ramsey, both serving members of the FCJ’s Board and members of the Caymanas Economic Zone (CEZ) Sub Committee, as attorneys in the FCJ’s acquisition of the land.
In his 52-page report, which was tabled in parliament yesterday, Stephenson concluded “that there is no evidence of any written contract or any other document detailing the terms of the agreement between FCJ and attorneys Zavia Mayne and Robert Ramsey, regarding their engagement under the CEZ project. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the DI concluded that an enforceable contract was formed between the parties based on the content of the letter dated September 4, 2012, the doctrine of Part Performance as well as payments made to Messrs. Mayne and Ramsey by the FCJ for services rendered.”
The Director of Investigations remarked that the FCJ Board members, who were present at the meeting in which the decision was taken to appoint Mayne and Ramsay as attorneys in the instant matter contravened Section 17(1) of the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act in their failure to exercise due care, diligence and skill that a responsible and prudent person would exercise in comparable circumstances.
Failings on the part of the board
This conclusion is based on the failure of the Directors, namely Newlyn (Neil) Seaton, Derek Cross, Mark Hall, Tanikie McClarthy, Robert Ramsey, Mrs Beverly Rose-Forbes, Donald Smith, Horace Sutherland and Mrs Beverley Williamson, at the material time, to develop and/or enforce a written retainer agreement in respect of the legal services provided by Messrs. Mayne and Ramsey and a monitoring mechanism to ensure that the contract was performed as agreed.
The FCJ paid the two a sum of J$26.43 million for private legal services rendered in relation to the FCJ’s acquisition of the 200 acres of land at Caymanas Estate, terminating their legal services on September 04, 2012, prior to the completion of the acquisition of the referenced land. Notwithstanding, full payment of the fees were made.
On December 19, 2014, the FCJ contracted the services of Linton Walters and Company to complete legal services for the Caymanas Economic Zone land acquisition and to recover funds that were paid to Mayne and Ramsey. Up to February 2, 2023, the FCJ’s purchase of land under the Caymanas Economic Zone Project remains incomplete.
Stephenson contended that “the appointment of Mayne and Ramsey, by the Newlyn ‘Neil’ Seaton led FCJ Board was irregular, improper and constituted a conflict of interest. The DI’s conclusion is based on evidence which indicates that at the time of their appointment as private attorneys for the referenced project, Messrs. Mayne and Ramsey were both serving FCJ Board members.”
The Director of Investigations recommends that, if not yet done, the FCJ implements a policy, which addresses conflict of interest, specifically at the Board level in keeping with the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act. Additionally, the FCJ should ensure that the policy provides clear and unequivocal prohibitions against conflict(s) of interest including formal disclosures and documentary evidence of recusals from deliberations, regarding any conflict of interest situation which may arise.
Mayne hitting back
However, Mayne through his attorney Nigel Jones is rubbishing the Integrity Commission’s findings saying that he wasn’t even present when the vote was taken to contract his services. Jones made the point that the Integrity Commission’s report is way past due, coming in more than 12 years after the matter.