Wed | Jan 19, 2022

RADA board can still have legitimate meetings amid resignation request – lawyer

Published:Wednesday | December 8, 2021 | 12:10 AM

Constitutional lawyer Dr Lloyd Barnett says the remaining members of the board of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) can legally hold meetings even as they refuse to submit resignations demanded by the responsible minister.

Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw requested the resignation of the 13-member board on November 19.

However, the chairman, Andrew Simpson, said last week that he and six others have not complied and want clarity on the “sudden request” he said came a month after the minister expressed confidence in the board.

The RADA Act says the minimum number to constitute a meeting is five, and Barnett said Simpson and the others can have meetings.

“Until they have resigned or been dismissed, they still form part of the board and, therefore, they can form the quorum. The legal position is, if you’re a member, you’re a member,” Barnett said.

But he said the minister does have the legal authority to revoke board appointments.

The RADA Act states that the responsible minister can revoke the appointment of any board member at any time “if he thinks it expedient so to do”.

So far, Shaw has not exercised that option. Questions submitted to his permanent secretary, Dermon Spence, last Wednesday for an update remain unanswered.

Barnett said the request for resignation is usually a courtesy extended by ministers instead of outright dismissal.

He said the current situation involving the RADA board may be unprecedented.

There are questions about Shaw’s timing and the motive given that at the October meeting with the board, he reportedly did not express any concern that he was dissatisfied with the direction of RADA.

ABRUPT ENDING

Between that meeting on October 14 and when Shaw requested the members’ resignation, the board held one meeting on November 11 that turned out to be contentious and ended abruptly.

At the meeting, the acting chief executive officer, Marina Young, was reportedly heavily criticised for allegedly disregarding the board’s opinion on a controversial $50-million contract.

Although the board does not play a role in procurement, on learning of the troubles, it suggested at the October 14 meeting that Young get advice from the Attorney General’s Department or retender the contract for the supply of six tractors that has been questioned after the first preferred bidder was replaced.

Young told the November meeting that RADA would not retender the contract, the AG’s chambers was not approached, and that the contract would be issued to Kingston Industrial Agencies (KIA).

RADA had advised Machinery and Parts Exports (MAPEX) on June 28 that the company was the preferred supplier.

However, the authority wrote back on August 5 indicating that following a re-evaluation, the other company, KIA, was the selected contractor.

According to RADA, the two companies ended with the same score and it decided on KIA because that company had the lowest bid of $49.7 million. MAPEX had $51.8 million.

MAPEX has threatened legal action, levelling several accusations at RADA, including a claim that the entity unlawfully disclosed information about its bid to KIA. That claim was rejected by the state agency.

After KIA was advised that it was not selected, it lodged a complaint to RADA, questioning the basis by claiming that tractors supplied by companies were “equal in comparison”.

KIA’s managing director is Phillip Henriques, the Jamaica Labour Party member of parliament for Clarendon North Western. The company says it has received its purchase orders and is sourcing the vehicles.

MAPEX’s executive chairman, Richard Powell Sr, worked at KIA for almost three decades up to his departure in 2000.

Board members have held serious concerns about the management of RADA, which provides support such as technical advice to farmers.

The management’s approach to the implementation of the farm road programme, including monitoring of construction to ensure accountability, as well as the tractor contract issue, is among the key concerns.

editorial@gleanerjm.com