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Accounting clerk to retake stand in $400-m Manchester MC fraud trial

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Accounting clerk to retake stand in $400-m Manchester MC fraud trial

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND
Observer staff reporter
sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, June 10, 2019

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester —Week two of the Manchester Municipal Corporation corruption trial is scheduled to get underway today in the Manchester Parish Court, where an accounting clerk who has been on the stand since last Tuesday afternoon is expected to continue testimony.

The witness, who is the fifth to take the stand to date, is being grilled by the crown counsel as they work through 112 documents brought into evidence, including invoices and vouchers, to verify information such as signatures and handwriting.

When the matter was adjourned on Friday, 63 documents had been reviewed.

The case came about in 2016, when a joint raid by the Financial Investigations Division (FID), the Office of the Contractor General and the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) of the corporate offices of the municipal corporation and homes of some senior employees led to arrests and charges in relation to misappropriation of funds.

Last week prosecutors said that the amount in question, which MOCA previously said was $95 million, has now increased to some $400 million.

Former employees of the corporation now on trial are Sanja Elliott, who served as deputy superintendent of the Road and Works Department; former acting secretary manager (chief executive officer) and director of finance David Harris; and former temporary works overseer Kendale Roberts.

Former bank employee Radcliffe McLean, Elliott’s former employee Dwayne Sibblies, Elliot’s wife Tasha-Gay Goulbourne-Elliott, his mother Myrtle Elliott and father Elwardo Elliott were implicated in the probe and are also now on trial.

Retired Mandeville mayor and chairman of the Manchester Municipal Corporation Brenda Ramsay was among witnesses who took the stand last week.

The clerk, who is to retake the stand today, is believed to have been the main accounting clerk between 2013-2016 — a key period for the matter. The witness’ testimony revealed that a significant number of the documents under review were signed by Sanja Elliott, Kendal Roberts and herself.

Some of the payments were for work done in different council divisions.

Next in line to testify is former deputy mayor Ervin Facey.

The list of scheduled witnesses is expected to be reduced from 59, but the trial is still expected to continue pass the two weeks initially planned.

Presiding judge in the matter is Ann-Marie Grainger.

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Ocho Rios Orchid Society gives back

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Ocho Rios Orchid Society gives back

Saturday, August 24, 2019

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The Ocho Rios Orchid Society is still basking in the success of its 27th Annual Orchid Show which it described as a delightful family event.

The show, held earlier this year, featured “breathtaking orchid displays complemented by dance items, fashion show and several booths showcasing a wide array of craft, clothing, jewellery and myriad plants”, the society said in a news release.

Known for making donations to various organisations from the proceeds of the show over the years, the society allocated funds from this year’s event to:

* Our Lady of Fatima Church Feeding Programme;

* Exchange All-Age School;

* Ocho Rios Baptist Church Feeding Programme;

* Mustard Seed Communities; and

* St Ann’s Bay Hospital.

President of the Orchid Society Andrea Davidson stated that she and her members were pleased to be able to make the contributions and “will continue to do so in the future”.

“Through these donations the members hope that they would have made a positive contribution not only to these organisations but to the people that each one serves,” the society said, and expressed thanks to the patrons who continue to support the show annually and whose patronage has helped to make the donations possible.

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NEPA briefs municipal corporations on proposed Cockpit Country Protected Area

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NEPA briefs municipal corporations on proposed Cockpit Country Protected Area

Saturday, August 24, 2019

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Fourteen representatives from municipal corporations in Trelawny, St Ann, St James, Manchester, Clarendon and St Elizabeth participated in a briefing on the proposed Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA) on Wednesday at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) head office.

The meeting was convened to brief mayors, chief executive officers and other senior municipal representatives on the process adopted by the Government in declaring the proposed CCPA boundaries, explain the accompanying initiatives and actions for areas outside of the boundary, provide information and clarification on mandatory environmental impact assessment (and archaeological impact assessment) and the plans to develop and implement a management plan for the area.

Peter Knight, NEPA chief executive officer and government town planner who chaired the meeting, stated that “the Government, led by Prime Minister Holness, is to be credited with providing leadership and working diligently in partnership with the key environmental and planning agencies and departments and other stakeholders in collectively agreeing on a boundary referred to as the CCPA”.

The briefing included a presentation on the CCPA, highlighting its significance and raising awareness of the proposed CCPA as a no-mining zone as designated by the Cabinet.

Following the presentation, representatives from the municipal corporations sought clarification on issues regarding the CCPA, including the considerations in the definition of the proposed boundary and progress of the on-the-ground verification (“ground truthing”) process to outline the boundary.

“We are glad for this meeting so that we can relay these facts to our councillors. There is a lot of misinformation and the people have the right to be informed properly,” said Trelawny mayor, Councillor Colin Gager. “We do applaud the bold move by the prime minister to identify a boundary.”

Other mayors expressed similar sentiments, saying that the briefing was overdue and that they were now placed in a better position to assist with the dialogue on the CCPA.

Representatives from partner State entities, including the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Water Resources Authority, and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority were present at the briefing to respond to queries.

After extensive consultations and deliberations, the area designated as the proposed Cockpit Country Protected Area was announced in Parliament on November 21, 2017 by Prime Minister Holness.

The proposed CCPA spans six parishes — Trelawny, St Ann, St James, Manchester, Clarendon and St Elizabeth. The area comprises approximately 74,726 hectares and will be protected under law. This includes existing forest reserves, significant hydrological, ecological feature, and cultural and heritage sites. A management plan will be prepared in partnership with private landowners, local groups and other stakeholders.

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NEPA empowers Trelawny youth with summer programme

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NEPA empowers Trelawny youth with summer programme

Saturday, August 24, 2019

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The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is reporting that this year’s Summer Library Programme, put on by the Sharon O’Connor Documentation Centre, has empowered youngsters aged 4-15 years to make environmentally conscious decisions.

Held under the theme ‘Protecting our Environment’, the programme engaged participants at the Trelawny Parish Library in Falmouth and the branch libraries at Duncans, Clark’s Town, and Wakefield.

According to NEPA Senior Librarian Kay-Ann Miller, “the topics for this year’s programme were selected based on the environmental issues facing communities in Trelawny, as gleaned from discussions with Suzette Morgan, senior librarian in the Trelawny Parish Library Network.

“It was important to cover topics relevant to their environment, including beaches and coastal erosion, practising the 4-Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse — the ban on single-use plastics, composting, and the effects of deforestation,” Miller added.

In addition to displays on environmental and planning issues presented by NEPA officials, the programme’s participants were exposed to information focusing on pollution, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and biodiversity.

Another key component of the Summer Library Programme was a Poster and Collage competition for children aged 9-15 and 4-8 years. Winners were awarded book vouchers. In addition, the five libraries in the parish network were also presented with books on Jamaica’s flora and fauna, as well as art and craft supplies for the programme’s participants.

The National Baking Company sponsored snacks for participants for the duration of the programme.

Morgan expressed gratitude to the NEPA team for facilitating the programme, saying, “We appreciate NEPA’s efficiency, organisation and communication throughout the programme and we are grateful to the agency for investing in Trelawny’s youth. The sponsorship of the stationery and art supplies was a huge help as students are now able to have adequate supplies.”

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