Tue | Sep 26, 2017

PM leafs through legal opinion on Port Authority pension shocker

Published:Thursday | December 15, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Prime Minister Andrew Holness is currently poring over an opinion his ministry sought from the attorney general regarding the vexed multimillion-dollar pension and gratuity saga at the Port Authority of Jamaica, which was unearthed by Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis in a report tabled in Parliament in July this year.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Audrey Sewell said a summary of the advice from the attorney general was received last Friday, and a more detailed opinion would be submitted shortly.

The findings of the auditor general's report, which highlighted payments of three pension benefits and gratuity amounting to more than $140 million to a senior executive at the Port Authority of Jamaica triggered intense national debate and calls for the Government to take swift action to address the matter.

Additionally, another 13 senior executives had employment contracts that provided for the payment of a retirement benefit as well as gratuity of 25 per cent.

GRATUITY PAYMENTS

Government policy dictates that gratuity payments are made in lieu of pension or retirement benefits and are calculated on basic pay only.

Sewell told The Gleaner yesterday that the prime minister would be making another statement to Parliament in January on the issue.

She noted that negotiations had taken place between the 14 former executives and the Port Authority of Jamaica in an attempt to arrive at a resolution.

Sewell divulged that attorneys representing the Port Authority and those retained by the former executives had made proposals with conditionalities for a settlement.

In her report to Parliament, Monroe Ellis said 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.

Sewell said the attorney general's opinion may also be taken to Cabinet for a decision before the prime minister addresses Parliament.

A senior government source told The Gleaner yesterday that in relation to the pension and gratuity scandal, some serious legal issues arose as to whether the relevant pension laws were disregarded.