NIA calls for Wheatley to resign or be fired
Anti-corruption group, National Integrity Action (NIA), is calling for Minister of Science, Energy, and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley to tender his resignation over the scandal-hit Petrojam.
The NIA says if he fails to do so then Prime Minister Andrew Holness should ask him to step down.
According to the organisation, neither steps would in any way presume guilt nor need to await any further investigation by the Auditor General's Department, the Major Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Agency, the Integrity Commission or the Public Accountability Inspectorate.
The state-owned oil refinery is now the subject of investigations arising from allegations of corruption, fraud, and mismanagement.
NIA argues that it is not enough for Prime Minister Holness to declare that the government will take policy actions to ensure that Petrojam functions with probity, transparency, and accountability.
It contends that Holness and Wheatley should act in accordance with good practice relating to the fundamental constitutional principle of individual ministerial responsibility.
NIA notes that in the past ministers who were hit by controversies resigned and argues that Wheatley should to the same in the interest of public confidence.
Full NIA Statement
NIA appreciates the commitments made by Prime Minister Holness in the statement to Parliament on June 26th, but at the same time urges the Prime Minister and Minister Wheatley to act in accordance with good practice relating to the fundamental constitutional principle of ‘Individual Ministerial Responsibility’.
We note the Prime Minister’s commitment, “to take certain policy actions to ensure that Petrojam functions with probity, transparency, and accountability,” and further look forward to the actions, “to ensuring transparency and forthrightness in addressing the challenges at Petrojam.”
These commitments and the proposed policy reforms require further action, in the context of - to use the Prime Minister’s own words - “the impact that allegations of corruption have on public confidence.”
Against this background, NIA recalls the appropriate conduct of previous members of Jamaica’s Executive when faced with similar allegations.
On November 29, 2011, during PM Holness’ first administration, then Minister of Transport and Works, the Hon. Mike Henry, tendered his resignation in a letter which stated, inter alia, “In light of ongoing attacks on the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme… I take full responsibility for the issues which have arisen and today tendered my resignation as Minister of Transport and Works with immediate effect.”
In a similar vein, on July 13, 2009, Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport and Works, the Hon. Joseph Hibbert, following a meeting with Prime Minister Bruce Golding, tendered his resignation to give himself - as stated in his letter of resignation - “Time and freedom to clear my name and my integrity.”
Prior to these two instances of a Minister and Minister of State doing the right thing, in October of 2006, then Minister of Information, Colin Campbell resigned from the Cabinet arising out of allegations relating to the Trafigura affair. In 2002, then Minister of Housing, Karl Blythe, also tendered his resignation in the context of allegations relating to Operation Pride.
It is relevant to note that Section 70 of the Constitution of Jamaica does not require the Cabinet either to approve the appointment or the ending of the appointment of a Minister of Government. The Governor General is required to act, “In accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.”
Further, that the Code of Conduct of Ministers (Ministry Paper No. 19/2002) requires, “Ministers of Government… to behave according to the highest standards of constitutional and personal conduct in the performance of their duties” and to be “accountable… for the policies and operations of their Ministries, Departments, and Agencies.”
In light of the above precedents of good practice and the need for urgent, appropriate action to arrest the decline of public confidence in governance, NIA believes that it is fitting that either Minister Wheatley tenders his resignation forthwith or the Prime Minister asks him for his resignation. Neither step would in any way presume guilt of the Minister nor need to await any further investigation by the Auditor General, MOCA, the Integrity Commission or the Public Accountability Inspectorate.