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A tale of two PR releases

Thursday, August 09, 2018

There is a stark difference in the way the public relations people at the State-run Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) handled two potential scandals facing the two entities.

Despite the Government's clearly stated position on transparency and accountability, the UDC used obfuscation and PR gimmicks — amateur as it was — in telling the public that something awful was happening at Dunn's River Falls in St Ann.

The news release on August 3, 2018 could not have been more benign:

“The board of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), with the support of the board of the St Ann Development Company (SADCO), has ordered a detailed examination into the operations of SADCO, specifically in relation to Dunn's River Falls.

“The board is of the view that based on internal preliminary reports, there is sufficient cause for concern. As such, given UDC's commitment to integrity, the organisation has contracted international specialists to perform an examination of the governance and control environment, as well as evaluate any potential weaknesses or risk areas. UDC will act swiftly to consider and, as appropriate, address concerns raised upon conclusion of the examination.”

This release told the public absolutely nothing. The UDC knew that at some point the problem at Dunn's River Falls could very well explode into the public domain and it clearly wanted to be in a position to say it was out first with the information, hence the corporation was not hiding anything.

But, as with everything that is hidden in the dark, it would soon come to light that big money is missing and unaccounted for at the popular tourist attraction. If the UDC really wanted to inform the public, instead of trying to hoodwink, it would not have indulged in this contorted bit of nonsense.

Compare the UDC release with that from the PNP on June 5, 2018 regarding the scandal at the Manchester Municipal Corporation, one of only four controlled by the party:

“Mandeville Mayor Donovan Mitchell a short while ago announced the resignation of Deputy Mayor Ervin Facey of the Spur Tree Division over breaches in the approval procedures at the Manchester Municipal Corporation.

“This follows payment for work in the parish for which a cheque was disbursed before the voucher was approved by the requisite signatories. The police were called in by the chief executive officer of the corporation to investigate the matter.

“The mayor also announced that two officers of the municipal corporation have tendered their resignations in respect of the same issue.

“Mayor Mitchell wishes to restate the corporation's commitment to transparency and says every effort will be made to ensure that the integrity of the corporation is maintained.”

From this release, the public was able to learn of the nature of the problem which led to the resignation of the deputy mayor. It did not try to fool anyone with such inanities like: “ …the organisation has contracted international specialists to perform an examination of the governance and control environment, as well as evaluate any potential weaknesses or risk areas.”