Fri | Dec 9, 2016

PSB says senior public servant is being vilified

Published:Wednesday | December 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM

THE PERMANENT Secretaries' Board (PSB) has come out strongly against what it says is an attempt to vilify and impugn the character of a senior professional public servant.

"If unchecked, such attacks can only serve to further demoralise the existing public service and discourage the best and brightest from wishing to enter the service," the PSB declared yesterday in a statement.

Pointing to the ongoing debate on the acquisition of the property housing Outameni by the National Housing Trust, the PSB said it was deeply concerned at recent developments and the implications in relation to public bodies.

The PSB said its specific concerns relate to "increasing attempts, over time, to bring the professional civil service into disrepute. Unfortunately, some of the contributions in relation to the instant case include elements of hearsay, misinformation, and factual inconsistencies".

Another concern raised by the professional body is the appropriateness of inviting a civil servant to appear before a committee of Parliament to treat with issues that are awaiting responses from the relevant ministers.

The PSB has also questioned why no member of the NHT Board has been summoned to any committee of the House.

ROLES NOT FULLY

UNDERSTOOD

"It is clear from commentary now within the public domain that the roles and responsibilities of persons appointed as accounting officers are not fully understood."

The board highlighted that the role and responsibilities of the accounting officer are defined in the Financial Administration and Audit Act, and they relate to the financial administration of entities that are funded by the Consolidated Fund within the portfolio for which a permanent secretary has supervision. In addition, it said the NHT is classified as a self-financing statutory corporation. It does not receive funds from the Consolidated Fund.

"It is important to note that in respect of the Outameni matter, the National Housing Trust was not in receipt of any such grant, capital contribution, revenue, or guarantee from the Consolidated Fund. Therefore, in so far as the PBMA Act is concerned, in the instant case, the accounting officer had no decision-making role," the PSB stated.

The PSB is strongly recommending that the Cabinet and the Parliament of Jamaica undertake, on an informed, factual, and reasoned basis, a thorough review of the governance and accountability frameworks in relation to public bodies.

During the Outameni debate, Onika Miller, permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, was summoned by the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee and grilled on a number of issues relating to the controversial sale of the property.