Fri | Aug 7, 2020

Double trouble - Ombudsman cracks whip on public servants campaigning for election

Published:Thursday | July 2, 2020 | 12:25 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Parchment Brown
Parchment Brown

Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown has written to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) regarding allegations that public officials aligned to the party are actively involved in representational politics in breach of the Code of Conduct and the legislation giving her office jurisdiction to police misconduct.

President of the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA), O’Neil Grant, has also made it clear that the public-service Staff Orders prohibit public officers from campaigning and appearing on political platforms.

“We are explicitly prohibited from taking part in partisan political activities,” Grant told The Gleaner.

Parchment Brown, who penned a letter on June 24 to the hierarchy of the JLP following complaints by the People’s National Party, indicated that persons holding positions in the public sector were doubling up as caretakers.

Failure by the JLP to respond to the claim by next week could cause her office to summon purported offenders.

In March, the PNP wrote to the political ombudsman complaining about Tova Hamilton, who then served as deputy executive director of the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and Jamaica Labour Party caretaker for Trelawny North. She was appointed a senator by Prime Minister Andrew Holness last week.

The Gleaner understands that Hamilton quit the agency on June 22.

The PNP had also raised concern about Rhoda Crawford, the JLP standard-bearer for Manchester Central, who works at the HEART/NSTA Trust as director for the adult education services.

Parchment Brown pointed out that Section 12 of the legislation states that the political ombudsman shall investigate any action taken by a political party, its members or supporters, where she is of the opinion that such action is likely to prejudice good relations between the supporters of various political parties.

She cited an example of how a breach could occur. “Let’s say that you are a caretaker and you are working in the Ministry of Agriculture. It’s a conflict because there are people saying you are on the public purse and you are out there campaigning, using public funding to do partisan work,” Parchment Brown told The Gleaner.

The Agreement and Declaration on Political Conduct states that officials should repudiate any act of corruption in the discharge of their functions.

“The definition of corruption, in my mind, includes doing any act that would create any advantage or disadvantage to a particular group based on some associations or identity where they are advantaged or disadvantaged.

“If you are preparing to become an MP, you are not expected to hold a government job, too,” Parchment Brown said.

According to Grant, if public officers campaign and appear on political platforms or speak as political activists, they would be deemed in contravention of the Staff Orders for the public sector and could be disciplined.

However, he pointed out that persons working as consultants or advisers to ministers of government are not deemed public officers.