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Gleaner, The (Newspaper) - February 22, 2008, Kingston, Kingston A3: TRAFIGURA GHOST STILL HAUNTS PNP B3: SEBA UNITED CLIP HOT WATERHOUSE NISSAN com VOLUME'174 NO'. 46 FRIDAY,' FEBRUARY 22, 2008 T KINGSTON, JAMAICA 62 PAGES includinggct$25 KERN Daraine Luton Staff Reporter AFTER MORE than two hours of interrogation by Fraud Squad detectives yesterday, Kern Spencer, the former junior minister in the previous People's National Party (PNP) administration, emerged with a half pack of Oreo cookies in his hand and a peach-flavoured Tampico soda. He haltingly told journalists that he does not fear prosecution. Spencer, who is at the centre of a criminal investigation, responded "no" yesterday when asked whether he was concerned about the possibility of prosecution. The 33-year-old Spencer applied for leave of absence as member of parliament (MP) for North East St Elizabeth last week, amid mounting pressure tor him to step aside. He has been implicated in a criminal probe to determine how contracts were issued in the distribution of free Cuba light bulbs. The project, which chalked up a $276-million bill, ran for 18 months and ended just before the September 3 general election last year. UTTERED ONLY A FEW WORDS Yesterday Spencer, who had wept openly in Parliament when revelations of possible fraud were made by Energy Minister Clive Mullings in November, seemed uncomfortable as camera lenses and tape recorders moved in on him. The former senator, People's National Party Youth Organisation president and University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, guild president, who has never failed to speak his mind, uttered only a few words as he left the Organised Crime Investigation Division (OCID) of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). He had just been PLEASE SEE KERN, A3 WHAT'S YOUR VIEW? LET US HEAR FROM YOU Fax: 922-6223 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org i i NORMAN GRINDLEY/DEPUTY CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER Former Junior Energy Minister Kern Spencer walks from the offices of the Organised Crime Investigation Division in Kingston after being interrogated by senior police officers yesterday. From light bulbs to dark days IT STARTED as a project designed to save the country millions of dollars while providing free energy-saving bulbs to thousands of Jamaicans. It ended in controversy with millions of dollars spent under questionable circumstances, thousands of bulbs unaccounted for and several questions facing the youngest person ever to be appointed to the Jamaican Senate, Kern Spencer. It was with much fanfare in February 2006, that the then Minister of Commerce, Science and Technology, Phillip Paulwell, announced that the Cuban Government would be donating 30,000 energy-saving light bulbs to residents of his East Kingston constituency. 30 CUBAN WORKERS An upbeat Paulwell said Jamaicans should be persuaded by savings under the scheme to use the light bulbs. Paulwell also announced that 30 workers from Cuba, together with the light bulbs valued at US$2 million, were due to arrive in the island two days later. Together with 30 employees from the technology ministry, the Cubans were to go door to door throughout the constituency exchanging the energy-saving fluorescent bulbs for traditional incandescent ones. Five: months later, the second phase of the project was launched with then Junior Minister Spencer announcing that a shipment of 250,000 energy-saving light bulbs had arrived in the island from Cuba. Spencer said the bulbs would be distributed to residents of four constituencies. He also said 100 Cuban technicians would be in the island to help with the distribution. Spencer made it clear that the bulbs were being provided by the Cuban Government at no cost to Jamaica. The overall estimated retail value of the four million bulbs was J$2 billion. The programme continued below the radar for the rest of 2006 into 2007, spreading islandwide with Cuban and Jamaican volunteers distributing the bulbs. It was back on the front pages in October 2007 shortly after the Light bulb timeline � February 15,2006 - Cuban light bulb pilot project launched. � July 3,2006 - Kern Spencer takes control of the second phase of the project. � September 1,2007 - Spencer approves millions of dollars in outstanding invoices. � October 23,2007 - Clive Mullings raises the red flag and calls in the 0CG&theAG!, � November 6,2007 - Mullings calls in Fraud Squad and DPP and Spencer weeps. �January 15,2008 - AG report tabled in Parliament. � February 5,2008 - A damning Contractor General's report tabled in Parliament. � February 7,2008 - PNP executive signals a distancing from Spencer. � February 14,2008 - Spencer signals intention to seek leave from Parliament. � February 21,2008 - Spencer questioned by Fraud Squad detectives. general election when new Energy Minister Clive Mullings announced that he had called in the auditor general and the SOMETHING EXTRA A5 CARIBBEAN B11 EDITORIAL A8 ENTERTAINMENT C1 LETTERS A8 COMICS C9 OPINION A9 HOROSCOPE C10 SPORTS B1 SOCIAL D1 BPL PREVIEW B2 CLASSIFIEDS D9 INTERNATIONAL B10 MEMORIAM D11 contractor general to probe the case. Speaking'in Parliament, Mullings announced that the programme, which was expected to cost J$30 million, was in fact costing the country J$276.5 million. Mullings said J$114 million of that amount had already been paid out while he had put a hold on the payment of the rest, even though the former junior minister had verified the invoices and approved the payments. CONTROVERSY The controversy deepened two weeks later when Mullings informed the House that the matter, which had previously been referred to the auditor general and the contractor general, had been sent to the Fraud Squad and the director of public prosecutions. He expressed discomfort with the fact that the two companies which collected the majority of the money under the project were not registered as contractors or suppliers with the National Contracts Commission, and were only incorporated around the time the islandwide distribution of the bulbs began . 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