Tue | Dec 10, 2019

Pay them more! - Opposition senators bat for higher compensation for integrity commissioners

Published:Saturday | November 30, 2019 | 12:30 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
Senator Kamina Johnson Smith.
Senator Kamina Johnson Smith.

While passing a resolution setting out salaries for members of the Integrity Commission, some members of the Upper House yesterday argued that the corruption oversight czars should have received a better remuneration package.

Justice Seymour Panton, chairman of the Integrity Commission, will be paid an annual salary of $4.9 million, while the other commissioners will get a little more than $4 million.

The Integrity Commission is a commission of Parliament reporting to the bicameral legislature through the tabling of reports that are reviewed by lawmakers.

Government policy precludes additional payment to commissioners who are currently receiving a salary from the Consolidated Fund.

Sophia Frazer-Binns, opposition senator, said that the salaries being paid to the integrity commissioners were comparable to the amount paid to retired justices who work with the Industrial Disputes Tribunal.

However, she indicated that persons who worked with the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), another commission of Parliament, received far higher salaries.

The 2016-2017 annual report of the ECJ showed that its chairman was receiving a salary and benefits amounting to $11.3 million, while other commissioners, including politicians who sit on the electoral oversight body get salary and benefits amounting to a little more than $11 million.

Kamina Johnson Smith, leader of government business in the Senate, who piloted the resolution, said that the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, in determining the sum to be paid, took into consideration the frequency of meetings and the fact that commissions of Parliament are usually paid higher rates than boards of directors.

She said that the Government “deeply values the work done not only by members of the Integrity Commission, but by staff across the public sector”.

Johnson Smith said that the administration wanted to pay civil servants at the highest level, noting “that’s why we are working so hard at economic growth”.

She told her parliamentary colleagues that the commissioners had not received remuneration since their appointments last year.

In his remarks, Opposition Senator Lambert Brown said that the country could afford to pay the commissioners better.

“Pay them what they are worth so that they can be the watchdog for us in an efficient way, over the corrupt practices of some of our own colleagues,” he quipped.

Brown urged the administration to provide medical benefits and insurance as part of the commissioners’ package.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com