Wed | Nov 22, 2017

FLA, union stalemate - Entities battle over reinstatement of fired workers; PM to be asked to intervene

Published:Thursday | August 24, 2017 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson
O’Neil Grant, president of the Jamaica Civil Service Association

A meeting yesterday reportedly ended without a deal for three people dismissed by the scandal-hit Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) to be reinstated, and their union now says that Prime Minister Andrew Holness will be called upon to intervene.

"We did not come to any resolution in relation to the termination of the contracts. Shane Dalling was insistent that he is not reinstating Michael Dixon's contract," said O'Neil Grant, the president of the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA).

"We asked if there was any particular reason, and he didn't give us any reason that we could really hold and say, 'That's justifiable'. His position is that the circulars of the Ministry of Finance give him the authority to terminate contracts."

Dalling is the chief executive officer of the FLA, which is under investigation over the alleged granting of hundreds of licences to people of questionable character and with political connections.

Dixon has been with the FLA since 2005, and up to his dismissal on Tuesday, headed the FLA's audit and complaints department. He is the only one of the three who made a formal report to the JCSA.

"He (Dalling) was very categorical in saying that the termination of the contract has nothing to do with any investigation. That it has to do with the fact that he, as the CEO, thinks that it's time for Mr Dixon to move on."

According to Grant, that decision, without the activation of grievance proceedings, was a breach of the Partnership for a Prosperous Jamaica pact between the Government and key civil society stakeholders.

"We are going to write a letter to the chairman of the partnership, Mr Holness, indicating that one of the agents of the State, in the person of Dalling, has taken an action that is contravening the spirit of the social partnership."

The FLA is yet to speak officially about the meeting, and telephone calls to Dalling have gone unanswered.

All FLA employees to undergo polygraph testing

New measures are being considered for implementation in attempts to improve transparency at the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA).

The measures reportedly include polygraph testing of all employees. In addition, The Gleaner understands that there will be background checks on all current and future employees of the FLA.

The agency is without a board, and the approval of licences has been put on hold, with no indications from National Security Minister Robert Montague on when he will appoint a new board.

FLA boards generally include retired cops and soldiers, along with people linked to the political administration in power. But with the latest scandal, there have been calls from civil society for changes to the law governing appointments

The dismissal of the employees follows The Gleaner's weekend reports of a whistle-blower's letter in which it was stated that the director and his crony inside the agency "used their offices to abuse, intimidate, and bully staff ... into executing their corrupt deeds".

Grant has said that Dalling's timing in firing the workers was "extremely off". "It has now cast an aspersion on a gentleman who is a long-standing public officer. We were at a loss in terms of why he has chosen now."

The board, appointed by the current administration last April, resigned earlier this month, and its chairman, Dennis Wright, said that some of the practices had been "inherited".

When the scandal broke, it was revealed that the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) was investigating more than 100 licences. But that number has grown to 257.

MOCA has said that it would not comment on the investigation. The Office of the Contractor General, to whom the whistle-blower wrote, is also probing the agency.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com