KINGSTON (Reuters) – Jamaica’s anti-corruption agency has referred the prime minister to its director of prosecutions over government contracts awarded to a construction company between 2006 and 2009.

The Integrity Commission released a report on Wednesday referring to an investigation into recommendations made by Prime Minister Andrew Holness for contracts with Westcon construction, citing a potential “conflict of interest”.

Holness said in a statement that he “strongly disagree(s) with the findings of the Integrity Commission regarding conflict of interest based on mere associations”.

During the period in question, Holness presided over the Ministry of Education, which awarded 10 contracts totaling almost JMD$22m ($140,000) over a two-year period to Westcon.

The commission said in its 107-page report that Westcon directors Robert Garvin and Donovan Simpson were “known to” Holness for a period of more than 20 years and had business links with him.

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The company was awarded contracts with other government agencies.

The commission said its director of corruption prosecution should consider whether Holness breached a Contractor General Act and the Public Sector Procurement Regulations 2008 and the Corruption (Prevention Act). 

Jamaica has long suffered from corruption among public officials.

It consistently ranks low on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, and its 2021 report stated that the country has been “struggling for years”.

(This story has been corrected to say ‘associations’, instead of ‘accusations’, in paragraph 3)

(Reporting by Kate Chapell; Editing by Isabel Woodford, Robert Birsel)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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