Current Affairs

Current Affairs



Blythe blasts Angus report
Accuses probe team of giving opinions, not facts
Observer Reporter
Saturday, April 20, 2002



Supporters of former Water and Housing Minister Dr Karl Blythe (superimposed at right), stage a protest in his defence outside Gordon House Thursday afternoon. (Photo: Michael Gordon)

DR Karl Blythe, who was last week forced out of the Cabinet by a government-commissioned probe of the operations of the National Housing Development Corporation (NHDC), Thursday night blasted the commissioners whose report, he said, reflected their opinions rather than facts.

Blythe also said that the commissioners had told "vicious" and "wicked lies" about his involvement in Operation PRIDE, the government's shelter programme that has been mired in controversy since its launch in 1995.

"... I shall not accept this report," Blythe, who quit as the water and housing minister last Saturday, told People's National Party supporters at a Face to Face meeting in his Central Westmoreland constituency.

"I frankly say tonight, the report is a report put together by many persons of good intention, but... who put this report together from an uninformed position and did not apparently take the time to inform themselves, because the material was right before them; they could have asked for it."

The commission, chaired by retired civil servant Erwin Angus, and including Noel Levy, Carlton DePass and Robert Martin, had, in its report, pointed to ministerial interference, cronyism, poor management and possibly corruption in Operation PRIDE.

The Angus report indicated over-runs of $928.25 million in respect of 21 sample projects and another $113.7 million on five schemes that have been abandoned. This was substantially less than the $5-billion over-run suggested by consultants for the NHDC in an internal audit completed late last year.

In a number of other projects, the cost of the development pushed them far out of the league of the people for whom Operation PRIDE was originally designed.

The commission also said that Blythe, when he took over as housing minister in February 2000, went on an expansion spree -- over-turning a policy that was put in place because of previous difficulties -- and told bureaucrats to allow paperwork to catch up with expansion.

But Thursday night, Blythe, obviously bitter at the report and its authors, said that they failed to show any wrongdoing or corruption on his part.

"This Angus report dealt with reporting on people's opinion. The same detractors who influenced the first report, they sat and listened to them again and they put down what they call their opinions and findings," he said.

Blythe made reference to the first NHDC report and asked whether this new report said specifically whether there was corruption or not... "whether or not the $5 million is a factual thing or not, or whether the minister had done anything wrong".

He said when he assumed the housing portfolio in 2000, there were closer to 120 PRIDE projects and not 111 as reported in the Angus report.

He also described as "a vicious lie", the commissioners' accusation that he chose the housing sites. According the Blythe, when we went to the housing ministry, the sites were already chosen and presented to him.

Said he: "When I went there in 2000, there was close to 120 sites. The sites were presented to me... how come I chose the sites? A vicious lie and wicked lie has been reported."

Blythe also dismissed a claim by the commissioners that he selected the contractors for the PRIDE schemes. "How could I award contracts when sites and contractors were in place when I went there?" he asked.