$9m Benz gathering dust at finance ministry
A 2017 Mercedes Benz luxury car, which was purchased by the Government at a cost of $9 million, has been parked at the central Kingston offices of the Ministry of Finance gathering dust, a whistle-blower has revealed.
The finance ministry confirmed on Wednesday that the Mercedes Benz C Class 250 motor vehicle was purchased in March and was assigned to former financial secretary Everton McFarlane.
The ministry also defended the purchase, saying it was done in keeping with the amendment to the cost, insurance and freight (CIF) upper limit for the purchase of motor vehicles and the government's motor vehicle policy for the public sector.
Cabinet gave approval in May last year for an increase in the CIF upper limit to US$41,000 or J$5.2 million. This was circulated to permanent secretaries, chief executive officers and department heads across the public sector on June 1, 2016.
But according to the whistle-blower, the vehicle was purchased despite clear indications that McFarlane was on his way out of the position he had held since July last year.
LUXURY SEDAN TO BE ADDED TO
A spokesperson at the ministry later confirmed that McFarlane was set to proceed on vacation on May 31 - almost two months after the vehicle was purchased - and that deputy financial secretary Darlene Morrison would be his interim replacement.
McFarlane took over as executive director of the Financial Services Commission earlier this month. Several calls to his mobile telephone went unanswered.
"He came back [from vacation] and stayed for a short time before he left the ministry in July, and the brand new Mercedes Benz just park up deh a gather dust," the whistle-blower lamented.
This assertion was put to the communications unit at the finance ministry, but up to late yesterday, there was no response.
However, responding to an Access to Information request from The Gleaner, the ministry revealed that the $9 million luxury sedan would be placed among its fleet of vehicles.
"When the former financial secretary demitted office, the vehicle was reverted to the ministry's fleet to be utilised for executive and ceremonial assignments," the finance ministry wrote in its email response to The Gleaner.