Mon | Sep 25, 2017

AEROTEL to blame - Gov't official suggests State-owned company at fault for $1.5m cell phone bill

Published:Monday | March 14, 2016 | 3:00 AMLivern Barrett

The management of the state-owned Aeronautical Telecommunications Limited (AEROTEL) should be blamed for allowing more than $1.5 million in charges to be racked up on the cell phone issued to its former chairman during the first two years after his resignation, a senior government official has said.

The official's assertion comes amid claims in court and other documents obtained by The Gleaner that the mobile phone assigned to former AEROTEL Chairman Maurice Henry was used to incur charges totalling $1.5 million between April 2012 and January 2014, even though he had resigned in February 2012.

The claim is also the subject of a probe by the Auditor General's Department.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to comment on the issue, said that it would be AEROTEL's responsibility to ensure that the contractual arrangements for the cell phone assigned to Henry are terminated.

"I go further to say that if I was found in that situation as head of AEROTEL and I have any challenge in getting back the phone, you just shut down the number. Tell the telephone company to discontinue the service. Simple," the official said.

The official, who has served on several public- and private-sector boards, said that he was not aware of any policy that allowed state agencies to provide directors with cell phones.

NOT AWARE OF PRACTICE

"I'm not just speaking of the position I hold, but I am a member - and have been for years - of government boards, and I am not aware that we would have been provided with such," he said.

While conceding that there may be circumstances that make it necessary for some state agencies to provide directors with cell phones to carry out their duties, the official insisted that such instruments, and any other company-issued items, should he returned immediately upon the completion of their tenure.

"The only reason you would have been provided with that instrument or that vehicle, or whatever it is, would be because it was deemed necessary for the execution of your functions. If you no longer carry out those functions, then it is not deemed necessary for you to have them," he explained.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com