The Editor, Sir:
The ongoing debate over the contracting of the Administrative Services Only (ASO) for the GEASO health scheme for public sector workers has been mired in sheer confusion and maybe even deliberate misrepresentation of the facts.
This chaos has been fuelled by a number of factors not least among them an over abundance of ignorance about the Government's procurement process, but also an unwillingness by some to separate questions of process from those of personal or other interests.
The GEASO scheme is administered by Blue Cross of Jamaica under the watchful eye of a Monitoring Committee made up of representatives of the unions and under the employer (Government of Jamaica) and supported by an actuary. The unions' representatives are traditionally drawn from the most representative groups in the public sector, thus the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA), theJamaica Teachers, Association, the police and Nurses Association of Jamaica. The Jamaica Confederation of Trade Union representing the other unions is accounted for through the JCSA, the largest pubic sector union.
As is accepted worldwide, where there is a negotiated benefit for workers, it is the duty and responsibility of the union and the employer to see to the full and effective implementation of the benefit. Here it is no different. Implementation of the GEASO scheme requires that a company capable of providing ASO also be selected.
This is what triggered the procurement process. As part of that process, prospective entities were invited to respond to a Request for Proposal (RFP), a proposal which had the input of the unions through the Monitoring Committee. The next step was to receive and open the tenders. As is to be expected, the unions were invited to the opening and were present. The report of the tenders would then be subject to the scrutiny of a consultant actuary who is required to provide an analysis of the tenders and make a recommendation as to most suitable tenders for the job.
The RFP, which provides a clear recognition of the GEASO Monitoring Committee as a player in process, requires an Evaluation Committee comprised of representatives of the GoJ and the GEASO Monitoring Committee to evaluate the consultant's Report and thereafter make a recommendation for contract to the National Contracts Commission onward to Cabinet which makes the award.
This last step is where it all broke down. Ministry of Finance and Planning failed to observe the provisions of the RFP and advanced the process unilaterally to the National Contracts Commission.
The unions learning of this, protested and the Ministry of Finance and Planning accepted our position. Cabinet since then has instructed that the provisions of the RFP must be observed and we are in the process of doing that.
In the interim, various unions state and other functionaries have been making their views known. Not least among that group isone union officer who has found it necessary to place advertorials in all major newspapers expounding on his views. It must be noted that neither the JCSA nor any other worker representative body known to me is associated with these advertisements and therefore any impression that they represent the position of the unions is false and misleading.
Basis of our protest
As trade unions, one of the most sacred principles by which we operate is the adherence to due process; a process that must be fair, open and just. Simply put, a 'flawed' process cannot produce anything but a 'flawed' outcome and that is the basis of our protest.
While it is recognised that in every matter of this nature, interested parties are going to seek to protect their interest, it is more important to me that the integrity and efficacy of the Government Procurement Process and the right of the worker to be part of the workplace decision-making mechanism be preserved.
This too will be settled and will pass, but what will not be forgotten is a tainted integrity and a damaged credibility and these are far more valuable than any personal or corporate interests.
I am, etc.,
WAYNE ST. A. JONES
Jamaica Civil Service Association