Overview of the Commission of the Contractor General - Roles and Responsibilities

What is the Commission of the Contractor General?

The Contractor General is an independent anti-corruption Commission of the Parliament of Jamaica which was established in 1986 by the Contractor General Act. (Section 3.1)

The Commission of the Contractor General is constituted by one or more persons appointed as Contractor General by the Governor General, by instrument under the Broad Seal, after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. (Section 3.2) 

Key Objectives of the Commission of the Contractor General

The paramount objective of the Office of the Contractor General is to ensure that the public sector contracting process delivers value to the tax-payer, is free from corruption, impropriety and irregularity and is transparent, impartial, competitive, fair, efficient and effective.

Functions of the Commission of the Contractor General

The Contractor General’s primary functions are three-fold. They are as follows:

1. To monitor the award and implementation of government contracts to ensure that:

  • They are awarded impartially and on merit;
  • The circumstances of their award or termination do not involve impropriety or irregularity;
  • The implementation of contracts conforms to the terms thereof. (Section 4.1.a)

2. To monitor the grant, issue, suspension or revocation of prescribed government licences to ensure that:

  • The circumstances of their grant, inter alia, do not involve impropriety or irregularity;
  • They are used in accordance with their terms. (Section 4.1.b) 

3. To conduct Investigations into any of the following:

  • The registration of contractors, tender procedures, the award and implementation of government contracts, the circumstances of, inter alia, the grant or revocation of prescribed licences and the practices and procedures related thereto. (Section 15)
  • It should be noted that in respect of his monitoring functions, a Contractor General is mandated to monitor contracts and licences, whereas in respect of his investigative functions, he has a discretionary power. (Sections 4 and 15)
  • An Investigation under the Act may be undertaken by a Contractor General upon his own initiative or as a result of representations which are made to him, but only if in his opinion such an Investigation is warranted. (Section 16)
  • The Contractor General’s secondary functions are related to the National Contracts Commission. The OCG, through its technical services department, acts as the NCC’s Secretariat in ensuring that all technical, administrative and human resource requirements of the NCC are fully satisfied to enable it to effectively and efficiently accomplish its objectives and mandates under the law. (Section 23 J)

Powers of a Contractor General

To facilitate the discharge of the aforementioned functions, the Act provides the Contractor General with certain powers, which includes the following:

  • The right to be advised of, inter alia, the award of any Government contract by a public body. (Section 4.2)
  • Far-reaching powers of enquiry, inspection and discovery to enable him to secure access to certain premises, documents, records, stores, property or information which are associated with contracts or licences and/or which, in his discretion, he might deem vital to the discharge of his functions under the Act. (Section 4.2, 4.3 and 4.4)
  • The power to require any Public Body to furnish in such manner and at such times, as may be specified by him, any information regarding the award of any contract as he might consider desirable. (Section 4.3)
  • The power to require any Public Officer, or any other person, to furnish, in such manner, and at such times, as may be specified by him, any information regarding the issue, suspension or revocation of any prescribed licence as he might consider desirable. (Section 4.4)
  • The Contractor General, in pursuit of his investigative powers, “may at any time require any officer or member of a Public Body or any other person, who, in his opinion, is able to give any assistance in relation to the investigation of any matter …, to furnish such information and produce any document or thing in connection with such matter as may be in the possession or under the control of that officer, member or other person”. (Section 18.1)
  • A Contractor General, in pursuit of his investigative powers, may summon before him and examine on oath “any person who has made representations to him or any officer, member or employee of a public body or any other person who, in his opinion, is able to furnish information relating to the investigation”. (Section 18.2)
  • In the pursuit of his investigative powers under the Act, a Contractor General shall be deemed to have the powers of a Judge of the Supreme Court in respect of the attendance and examination of witnesses and the production of documents. (Section 18.3)
  • A Contractor General is empowered to adopt “whatever procedure he considers appropriate to the circumstances of a particular case and, subject to the provisions of the Act, may obtain information from such person and in such manner and make such enquiries as he thinks fit”. (Section 17.1)

Independence of the Commission of the Contractor General

  • In an effort to safeguard the independence of the Contractor General, the Contractor General Act makes provision for the following:
  • The appointment of the Contractor General by the Governor General, after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. (Section 3)
  • A seven (7) year tenure of service, in the first instance, following appointment. (Section 6)
  • An absolute prohibition against the removal from office of the Contractor General except on account of his “misbehavior”, his inability to discharge the functions of his office and where he trades with the Government without the prior approval of Parliament. (Section 7; See also provisions of Section 8.2)
  • The provision that the Contractor General, in the exercise of his powers, “shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority”. (Section 5.1)

(NB. Special provision is however made for “the assignment, to a Minister of responsibility, for such aspects of the administration of the Act as are necessary or desirable to facilitate liaison between Parliament and a Contractor General”. (Section 5.2)

  • The provision that “… no proceedings whatsoever shall lie against a Contractor General or any person concerned with the administration of the Contractor General Act, for anything that he may do or report or say in the performance of his functions under this Act”. (Section 23.1)
  • The power of the Contractor General to “appoint and employ … such officers and agents as he considers necessary to assist him in the proper performance of his functions under this Act”. (Section 13)

Reporting Procedures under the Contractor General Act

  • Upon the completion of an Investigation, a Contractor-General shall, in writing, inform the principal officer of the public body concerned and the Minister having responsibility therefor of the result of that investigation and make such recommendations as he considers necessary in respect of the matter which was investigated. Where a Report of a Contractor-General reflects adversely upon any person the Contractor-General in required to, so far as practicable, inform that person of the substance of the report. (Section 20)
  • Where a Contractor-General finds, during the course of his Investigations or on the conclusion thereof that there is evidence of a breach of duty or misconduct or criminal offence on the part of an officer or member of a public body, he shall refer the matter to the person or persons competent to take such disciplinary or other proceeding as may be appropriate against that officer or member and in all such cases shall lay a special report before Parliament. (Section 21)

Under Section 28 of the Contractor General Act:

  • A Contractor-General may also, at any time, be required by Parliament to submit a report to Parliament in respect of any matter being investigated by him.
  • A Contractor General shall submit to Parliament an annual report relating generally to the execution of his functions and may at any time submit a report relating to any particular matter or matters investigated, or being investigated, by him which, in his opinion, require the special attention of Parliament.
  • A Contractor General may also, in the public interest, from time to time, publish in such manner as he thinks fit, reports relating to such matters as are mentioned in subsection (2) and any case which is the subject of a special report under section 21, but no such report shall be published until after it has been laid pursuant to subsection (3).

Criminal Sanctions for Obstructing or Refusing to Comply with the Directives of the Contractor General

 The Contractor General Act provides that any person who willfully makes any false statement to mislead or who misleads or attempts to mislead a Contractor General or who without lawful justification or excuse, obstructs, hinders or resists a Contractor General, or who fails to comply with any lawful requirement of a Contractor General, is guilty of a criminal offence. (Section 29)