Marshall-Williams resigned as a director of Holland Producers Limited amid concerns of conflicts of interest, given her personal relationship with Cabinet Minister, JC Hutchinson, and her roles as a director of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, RADA. The company manages the state-owned Holland Estate.
In a statement yesterday, Hutchinson, Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF), said Marshall-Williams gave up her role because she did not want an agro-economic project at Holland to become embroiled in controversy.
The developments follow a Sunday Gleaner report that revealed conflicts of interest concerning the selection of Holland Producers Limited in 2019 to manage the lands. Hutchinson is pushing for the establishment of the Holland property as an agro-economic zone.
According to the Gleaner report, SCJ’s Managing Director Joseph Shoucair, said the agency received a recommendation from the agriculture ministry to give possession of the lands to Holland Producers.
In his statement yesterday, Hutchinson said he wrote to Shoucair in April 2019, “introducing” Holland Estate Management Company, the precursor to Holland Producers Limited which was formed a month later.
“Let me state categorically that I have in no way benefited from the lands at Holland, either directly or indirectly. It was never my intention to derive any benefit from the Holland lands, nor do I have an interest in Holland Producers Limited,” Hutchinson said.
MICAF oversees the SCJ and RADA, one of the key institutions supporting farmers on the property.
Not only is Ms Marshall-Williams is a member of the board of RADA, she also chairs RADA’s St Elizabeth Parish Advisory Board.
Opposition Spokesman on Agriculture Victor Wright has alleged that the arrangements put Holland Producers at a disproportionate advantage over other interests and cannot be allowed to stand.
In a statement today, Mr. Wright said news reports indicate that the land allocation was done through an unsolicited proposal with no tender or financial proposal from Holland Producers, a director of which is the paramour and live-in partner of the Minister.
The PNP Shadow Minister said this could not be ignored because the land is owned by the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ), which is an agency of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF) and this falls directly under the purview of the portfolio Minister J.C. Hutchinson.
“What is worse is that the Holland Producers’ director is also Chairman of the RADA St. Elizabeth Board of Directors and a member of the RADA national board and would, therefore, be aware of insider information on the land availability and the Ministry’s plans. Consequently, the land arrangement puts Holland Producers at a disproportionate advantage over other interests, and this cannot be allowed to stand,” Mr. Wright said.
Mr. Wright said the Holland land lease arrangement needed to be immediately halted, and the Integrity Commission conducts a thorough examination of the contractual agreement, which has been executed without due process and disclosure of the financial arrangements, including the value placed on the land in the lease.
The PNP spokesman said the party was in possession of more information, which indicates that current employees of RADA are also directors of Holland Producers, and the government farm store located on the Holland property is also being managed by persons connected to the Minister.
Mark Lee, another director of Holland Producers, is the deputy parish manager of RADA, St Elizabeth while the Agriculture Minister’s son is the sole proprietor of the agricultural supply store located on the Holland Estate Property.
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