Current Affairs

Current Affairs



'Shaw talking rubbish'
Blythe rejects allegation of joint venture housing projects in his constituency
Observer Reporter
Wednesday, April 24, 2002



Blythe (left) denies charges made by Shaw (right) in Parliament yesterday.

FORMER Water and Housing Minister Dr Karl Blythe last night rejected allegations by Audley Shaw that he was involved in two joint venture housing projects with a non-governmental organisation established by him in his constituency and that he negotiated loans for those projects with a state-run bank.

Shaw, in his budget presentation in Parliament yesterday, charged that Blythe:

* entered into joint venture agreements with himself whereby the National Housing Development Corporation (NHDC) financed at least two projects totalling $180 million in his constituency;

* negotiated with the Jamaica Mortgage Bank to lend the NHDC funds exclusively for the projects; and

* instructed a letter dated June 26, 2000 to be sent to the NHDC enclosing an invoice for a $25 million payment to Black Brothers, a building contractor with links to the ruling People's National Party.

But last night, Blythe told the Observer that Shaw was talking "rubbish" and explained how the non-governmental organisation -- the Central Westmoreland Trust -- went about getting financing for the housing developments on the Toll Gate and Grotto lands in Westmoreland.

According to Blythe, the trust, of which he is a non-voting director, applied to the NHDC for help to complete the project at Toll Gate after a substantial portion of the work had already been finished, while in the case of Grotto, the money was borrowed to finance the entire project.

"The NHDC has security for both projects," said Blythe, who added that in the case of Grotto, that title is in the Central Westmoreland Trust's name and the NHDC is holding the title.

Blythe resigned his Cabinet post on April 11 after a commission appointed by Prime Minister P J Patterson to probe the operations of the NHDC and Operation PRIDE said it had found ministerial interference, cronyism, poor management and possibly corruption in Operation PRIDE, the government's shelter management programme.

Patterson has sent copies of the report to the director of public prosecutions, the police chief and the auditor-general "to assist them in the pursuit of their respective duties".

Blythe, who has insisted that he did nothing wrong, said he quit to ensure that those investigations are not compromised by his presence in the ministry.

He has also rejected the report of the commission, chaired by retired civil servant Erwin Angus, saying that it reflected the commissioners' opinions rather than facts.

Shaw's charge yesterday that Blythe had "negotiated with the Jamaica Mortgage Bank to lend NHDC funds exclusively for the projects" was described by Blythe as "foolishness".

"That doesn't make sense," said Blythe, who added that whenever he had to talk to the bank it was to secure operational funding for the NHDC.