Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Letter of the Day | Samuda should resign over Mombasa grass

Published:Wednesday | May 24, 2017 | 5:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

National Integrity Action (NIA) welcomes the launch by the Office of the Contractor General of an investigation into issues surrounding 'Mombasa Grass', the grant of a milk powder licence, and the conduct of Minister Karl Samuda, former Executive Director Hugh Graham, and the Jamaica Dairy Development Board.

We urge the contractor general to conclude his investigation as quickly and as thoroughly as possible, into the extent to which principles of transparency, accountability, integrity, and good governance are set out in relevant regulations of the Government of Jamaica have been breached.

Subject to further and better particulars, based on public statements and official regulations, the NIA makes the following observations:

1. Until May 17, 2017, the date on which Minister Samuda stated in Parliament that he had "made payment for all the work done at my farm" in the planting of Mombasa grass on his farm by the Jamaica Dairy Development Board (JDDB), the minister obviously derived personal benefit, at least to the extent of the work done by a public body for which he has ministerial responsibility.

Despite admission of error, the 'benefit' derived suggests a breach of principles governing the conduct of ministers. These principles are set out in Ministry Paper No. 19/2002 and include accountability, openness, among others.

In circumstances of controversy similar to that now surrounding Minister Samuda, then Minister Mike Henry (in November 2011, under Prime Minister Andrew Holness) and then Minister Richard Azan (in September 2013, under Prime Minister Simpson Miller) tendered their resignations in the context of investigation reports conducted by the Office of the Contractor General into the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP) and into the Spaldings Market issue, respectively. Against this background and in the interest of good governance, Minister Samuda should seriously consider tendering his resignation to Prime Minister Holness.

2. In regard to the dismissal/non-renewal by the JDDB of the contract of CEO Hugh Graham, to assist the public in determining whether this course of action was based on performance considerations, the NIA:

a. Asks whether the CEO was appraised in accordance with the Performance Management and Appraisal System set out in Chapter Nine of the Government of Jamaica Accountability Framework for Senior Executive Officers; and,

b. If that were the case, the NIA requests that the performance appraisal/recommendations, as well as the performance ratings of the CEO, be made public.

c. In relation to the permanent secretary of the ministry being an ex-officio member of the JDDB, in the interest of transparency, the public needs to be fully informed as to the reasons for this apparent breach of the GOJ Accountability Framework, which states: "The practice whereby permanent secretaries sit on the advisory boards under their portfolio shall be disallowed." (Chapter 4, 4.3).

More generally, to facilitate the building of citizen awareness and public demand for good governance, the NIA strongly recommends that the Code of Conduct for Ministers, a summary of the GOJ's accountability framework and the corporate governance framework for public bodies be more widely disseminated, and systematically observed and continually upheld by the relevant authorities.

Professor Trevor Munroe

Executive Director

National Integrity Action