Wed | Sep 20, 2017

PM to tackle Port Authority pension shocker

Published:Friday | July 29, 2016 | 7:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Andrew Holness

Prime Minister Andrew Holness will shortly be addressing flagrant breaches of the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act, whereby at least 14 senior executives of the Port Authority of Jamaica received both pension and gratuity amounting to millions of dollars.

The Port Authority of Jamaica falls under the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.

At Wednesday's post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, Information Minister Ruel Reid said the portfolio minister would be speaking to the issue, which is contained in a special audit of the Port Authority of Jamaica.

Quizzed on what legislative or other action is being contemplated by the Government to address corruption in the public sector, Reid said the matter was under review by the Cabinet. "We are committed to make sure that there are the requisite regulations and legislative provisions to better hold all persons accountable for the stewardship of public funds ... the Government is seized of the issue and we are very serious about stamping out any form of corruption," Reid stressed.

In her report, which was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis said the contract of 14 senior executives of the Port Authority of Jamaica provided for the payment of a retirement benefit, in addition to the payment of gratuity of 25 per cent of gross taxable income.

The Ministry of Finance and the Public Service policy dictates that gratuity payments are made in lieu of pension or retirement benefits and are calculated on basic pay only.

GOLDEN HANDSHAKE

Monroe Ellis reported that one senior officer received three pension benefits, including a 'golden handshake' valued at more than $100 million, plus gratuity amounting to $31.33 million.

The auditor general recommended that in the absence of explicit approval from the finance ministry, the Port Authority should take steps to recover amounts overpaid in respect of retirement benefit and gratuity payments.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee of Parliament Dr Peter Phillips told The Gleaner that the audit of the Port Authority would be examined by the parliamentary oversight committee, along with others, when lawmakers return from the summer recess.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com