Tue | Dec 1, 2020

We’re bound by law, says Integrity Commission - Pryce explains why purchase price used as Holness, Phillips’ real estate value

Published:Wednesday | August 21, 2019 | 12:36 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter
Dr Peter Phillips (right) and his wife, Sandra Minott-Phillips.
Dr Peter Phillips (right) and his wife, Sandra Minott-Phillips.

The eyebrow-raising figures published in the Jamaica Gazette as the value of real estate assets owned by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips reflect the price at which their properties were acquired and not the estimated current market value, the Integrity Commission has confirmed.

Phillips’ wife, attorney-at-law Sandra Minott-Phillips, has complained that a summary report of her husband’s 2018 statutory declaration prepared by the commission “grossly understated” the total value of their real estate assets by $54 million.

Some public commentators have also raised questions about the commission’s summary report of Holness’ 2018 statutory declaration, which placed the value of his real estate assets at $7 million.

Yesterday, acting executive director of the Integrity Commission, Colonel Daniel Pryce, stood by the decision to publish the price at which the assets were acquired and not the current market value.

“To use the current market value could be inflationary and because of that, we use that which is consistent, which is the cost of the item. Not only is it consistent, but it is verifiable and that was what was done in both cases,” Pryce told The Gleaner in reference to the published summaries for the two parliamentary leaders.

“The market value is an estimate. It is something that is unverifiable”, he argued.

The commission’s summary report of Phillips’ declaration, which was gazetted last month, revealed that the opposition leader, his wife and children declared assets and income totalling roughly $185 million last year. This includes the home jointly owned by the Phillipses and a “tract of land” owned by Minott-Phillips, which the report valued at a total of $3.6 million.

Holness; his wife, Juliet, who is the member of parliament for East Rural St Andrew; and their children declared total income of $15.5 million; assets $161.2 million and total liabilities of $22.2 million last year, according to the commission’s summary report, which was gazetted this month.

Explaining published summary value

Minott-Phillips, in a letter to The Gleaner on Monday, revealed that the current market value for the couple’s home is $48 million, while the land has been valued at $10 million, and insisted that this information was disclosed to the commission.

Minott-Phillips said her husband had pointed out “a few inaccuracies” in the draft summary of the declaration, including that the asset value of the real estate they jointly owned “is not declared as JMD3,600,000”.

She said the opposition leader also indicated in his letter to the commission that “in instances where your summary attributes a purchase price value to an asset, my preference would be for it to make it clear, perhaps by use of an asterisk and a footnote, that value represents the purchase price at the date of acquisition”.

But Pryce said the Integrity Commission “was very careful” to point out to Phillips that the cost of the property, and not the estimated market value, was what would be used in the report.

He said the commission “recognised” the suggestion by Phillips, but said that would require an amendment to the Integrity Commission legislation.

“We did point out to him that it is the law. The actual form [to capture information about real estate assets] is written in the law. We can’t alter what is written in the law,” Pryce said.