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Permanent Secretary Board questions PAAC recall of Onika Miller

Published:Wednesday | December 10, 2014 | 10:00 AM

Questions are being raised about the appropriateness of having Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Onika Miller, reappear before a parliamentary committee in relation to the purchase of the Outameni Experience while questions are still pending in the House of Representatives.

The Permanent Secretaries’ Board, which has raised the question, is charging that it is an attempt to vilify and impugn the character of a senior professional public servant.

Last week, the Public Administration and Appropriation Committee said it intentions to have Miller reappear before the body in light of claims that the National Housing Trust (NHT) has been allowed to flout obligations under the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act.

PAAC Member and North East Manchester Member of Parliament, Audley Shaw, has heavily criticised Miller and Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller for failing to hold the NHT accountable for its failure to produce up-to-date reports.

The MP argued that if there was proper reporting the Prime Minister would have been made aware long ago of the NHT’s purchase of the Outameni tourist attraction.

However, the Permanent Secretaries’ Board says it would be inappropriate for Miller to reappear before the PAAC in light of the fact that questions have been tabled in the House on the Outameni matter and responses are pending by the responsible ministers.

It further argues that under Financial Administration and Audit Act, a permanent secretary has no supervisory authority over self-financing statutory corporations such as the NHT.

And the body says the NHT did not receive or use money from the Consolidated Fund to undertake the Outameni purchase and therefore a Chief Accounting Officer or a Permanent Secretary was not entitled to have an input in the decision-making.

The Permanent Secretaries’ Board adds that the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act clearly prohibits a Chief Accounting Officer or Permanent Secretary from meddling in Board affairs or to direct Boards of public bodies on how to run their systems and operations.

The Board says it is therefore suggesting that the focus should be on the NHT and its Board.

The body says attacks on the Permanent Secretary with regards to the Outameni issue are misguided and will only serve to demoralise the public service.