Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
DESPITE AN eleventh-hour submission from the National Democratic Movement (NDM) agitating for the retention of the Bishop Herro Blair-led Office of the Political Ombudsman (OPO), a parliamentary committee deliberating on its relevance appeared to have sounded the death knell on the preservation of the office.
In a submission to the committee, NDM Chairman Peter Townsend said that while the cost to administer the office seemed high, the political mediation body should not be abolished. However, it conceded that a review of the office was necessary.
"The NDM believes that although some degree of political maturity has been demonstrated by both the People's National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party leadership and supporters, not enough has been accomplished to disband the Office of the Political Ombudsman," Townsend said.
Betty Ann Blaine, head of the New Nation Coalition, wants the duties and responsibilities of the office to be turned over to the Electoral Office of Jamaica (ECJ).
In her submission to the committee, Blaine said the office was an expense that the country could not afford at this time. She also argued that it had no investigative and prosecutorial powers and mirrored the work of the Electoral Court and the ECJ.
no input from Blair
The Human Resources and Social Development Committee spent about 30 minutes on Thursday wrestling with a decision whether to invite Bishop Herro Blair to its next meeting or to conclude its deliberations without hearing from him.
The political ombudsman had submitted a full report to the committee on the work his office carries out and recurrent costs associated with the operation of the commission of Parliament.
Committee members who attended the meeting agreed that the OPO should be subsumed by the Electoral Office of Jamaica.
Richard Parchment, the member of parliament for South East St Elizabeth, told his committee colleagues that Blair's attendance would not change his resolve that the office should be scrapped.
"If the ombudsman comes here and preach like Paul, it is still not going to change my mind. My mind is made up and I am here representing the views of my constituents which I have sought," Parchment contended.
Citing expenditure amounting to more than $90 million to run the OPO, over a five-year period, committee member Dayton Campbell said the country could not maintain this cost.