Fri | Nov 17, 2017

PNP rejects PM's claim of no cellphone bill guidelines

Published:Friday | July 14, 2017 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott
People’s National Party President Dr Peter Phillips (right) and Julian Robinson, general secretary, during a press conference at the party’s Old Hope Road headquarters in St Andrew yesterday.

The Opposition People's National Party (PNP) is insisting that had Finance Minister Audley Shaw followed existing government protocols, he would not have racked up an over $8 million one-year cell phone bill, rejecting Prime Minister Andrew Holness' claim that there were no guidelines.

PNP President Dr Peter Phillips and his General Secretary Julian Robinson appeared puzzled as they questioned how such exorbitant phone bills were being racked up without any alarm from the finance ministry's top-tier officials, especially since there is a monthly form for checks and balances.

During a press conference at the party's St Andrew headquarters yesterday, the Opposition argued that Shaw's astronomical cell phone bill amounted to a misuse of public funds.

"The questions that arise are: Did anybody see anything going out of line? When did they see it going out of line? And was remedial action taken?" Phillips queried.

 

UNTIDY SITUATION

 

Robinson pointed out that while he was a state minister, his telephone bill was brought to him, "and I had to go through it line by line; I had to say which calls were personal and which were official. The question is: Did Mr Shaw see the bill? Who signed off on them? Were they signed off on? Somebody must have had physical sight of the bill."

Meanwhile, Phillips called for more disclosure surrounding the circumstances which resulted in the finance minister negotiating a more than $1 million discount on his cell phone bill, describing it as an untidy situation. This, after having said to pay some $2.5 million for personal charges on the account.

"It needs to be transparent. The entirety of the facts [need to be presented]. The basis for this negotiated discount needs to be clear," Phillips asserted.

Phillips, a former finance minister, argued that because Shaw is in charge of taxation and regulation, it does not reflect "good governance" for him to have approached a private sector company for a discount on the cell phone charges.

"What we are calling for is the prime minister of Jamaica to make it clear what standard applies to his government, the basis on which these negotiations have taken place and [whether] he is satisfied," Phillips said.

Pressed by The Gleaner as to whether Shaw should repay the discount, Phillips said, "Paying it back at this point does not change the fact that it was asked for."

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com