Lisa says no money allocated for Prickly Pole

residents of Prickly Pole and surrounding communities staged a demonstration in Claremont

2015_0925_lisa_hanna_600x300SOUTH East St Ann Member of Parliament Lisa Hanna has dismissed allegations that she had allocated $3 million for paving the grounds of the Prickly Pole Primary and Infant School in her constituency.

The MP’s response to the controversial issue came late Thursday night, hours after residents of Prickly Pole and surrounding communities staged a demonstration in Claremont to protest against the sacking of Vinette Robb-Oddman as board chair of the school by the education minister Wednesday evening.

There has been a raging storm since last week Friday’s demonstration by parents and students of Prickly Pole, in which the board chair participated, to register their anger over what they claimed was the non-payment of the $3 million that was alleged to have been allocated for the school. It was, however, the death of an 11-year-old girl, who allegedly participated in the protest, that threw the issue in the national spotlight.

Hanna, who is the minister of youth and culture, said:

* The allegations are baseless. It is important that the procedure for the recommendations of contracts be outlined to avoid unnecessary misunderstanding.

* My constituency office recommends to the constituency executive various projects which may be undertaken throughout the constituency. The executive seeks to obtain funding from the relevant agencies for those projects approved by it.

* It is the implementing agencies (for example The St Ann Parish Council, National Works Agency or The National Solid Waste Management Authority) that award contracts and ensures that work is properly done so payments can be made by them. No constituency office or executive collects any funds to make payments under any contract.

* In this instance, the Prickly Pole paving was among several projects recommended by a former executive member, Ezekiel Russell, in December 2013. Mr Russell circulated his recommendation to Councillor Lydia Richards on December 3, 2013 in a document entitled ‘Christmas Programme for the Bensonton Division’.

* The proposed Prickly Pole paving project was not approved by the constituency executive and funds were never sought from any agency nor allocated for any such Prickly Pole paving project. Accordingly, there was no paving work done and no “missing funds” to explain.

“The public should be aware that the South East St Ann Constituency Executive has held over 15 executive meetings since December 2013, and none of these allegations or any questions on the matter have ever been raised. All councillors are members of the executive,” Hanna said in her statement.

Hanna, who has been facing opposition from some of her delegates, will this Sunday put up a fight for her political life when she goes up against Councillor Lydia Richards for a run-off for the chairmanship of the constituency. If she wins she will remain the People’s National Party’s standard-bearer for the constituency and its candidate in the next general election. However, if she loses it could be the end of the political career for the two-time MP.

In the meantime, questions have been raised about the decision by the party to go ahead with the selection on the same date the National Executive Council is meeting. The meeting is the first of the NEC since last weekend’s annual conference.

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