Portia Simpson Miller yesterday said she was unaware of the campaign funding scandal in which her People’s National Party (PNP) has been mired for more than a week and which has triggered a fresh round of conflict within the ranks of the fractious political Opposition.
However, she told the press that she would check on it as soon as she got home.
Simpson Miller was speaking to journalists following her foundation’s presentation of $4 million in scholarships and bursaries to 42 students at The Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston.
“What missing funds?” she asked with a puzzled look on her face in response to questions about PNP Treasure Norman Horne’s report that some of the party’s candidates in the last general election collected money from donors but have not accounted for the funds.
“I don’t know about that. Where, who, what?,” she replied when she was pressed on the issue.
When she was asked if she was not aware of Horne’s report she said: “What report? They have been keeping me very busy on the road. I’ll have to check it when I get home later.”
Chairman of the PNP Hanover Eastern constituency organisation DK Duncan, who was in the company of the party president and Opposition leader, rushed to her defence by stating that he was there to brief her, as she had been indisposed.
According to Duncan, a meeting with the PNP executive is scheduled for Monday, where Horne has been invited to speak.
The controversy came to the public’s attention on August 22 when Horne’s report to the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting on July 23 and 24, in which he accused some candidates of not remitting campaign donations, was leaked to the media.
Horne alleged that while the party was facing difficulties in raising campaign funds, some senior members, whom he described as the party’s biggest competition, collected monies from donors but did not hand them over to the party’s treasury.
“These persons were actively in the market for what seemed to be [the] sole benefit of their personal campaigns and collected significant amounts from members of the private sector who were earmarked by the treasury as potential substantial donors for the benefit of the PNP as one cohesive unit,” he wrote.
“On numerous occasions, information received by the treasury from the potential donors was that contributions had already been made to senior party members for the benefit of the party. However, only a few members reported or accounted in full, or even in part, for the receipt of these donations to the treasury or the party executive.
“This heavily affected the party’s income and short-changed the party, resulting in a negative effect on the national campaign. Financially speaking, there was not one central bank, but several banks; some of which had more resources than the treasury,” Horne stated in his report.