Mark Titus, Sunday Gleaner Writer
First it was his jacket, now it is his car. Donovan Stanberry, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, has once again raised many eyebrows and set tongues wagging since the arrival of his spanking new 2012 Mercedes-Benz.
Stanberry, who is on vacation leave, told The Sunday Gleaner that the order for the vehicle was made last September under the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration, but the vehicle was not delivered until January 5, this year.
According to Stanberry, the deal makes economic sense, as the price of the vehicle was below the limit allowed for ministers and permanent secretaries, which was increased from US$25,000 (J$2.1 million) to US$35,000 (J$3.04 million) in April of last year.
"The practicality and economics of it show that there is no need for me to be driving a six-cylinder SUV around town, when a car can do the job," said Stanberry.
"I cannot provide what the exact value is at this time, but based on my entitlement, I purchased the most efficient vehicle within the value range allowed.
"I also considered reliability, longevity and the additional attraction of three years' free servicing, and, in fact, it is cheaper than the top-range SUVs around," said Stanberry.
His new wheels is a C-Class Mercedes-Benz with an elegance package and a current price tag of $6.3 million at Silver Star Motors Limited, the local authorised dealer. However, Stanberry would have benefited from duty concessions and other allowances, which would see the cost lowered.
But that has not satisfied JLP spokesman on information, Arthur Williams, who has challenged the purchase.
"As far as I am aware, at any given time, there is a fleet of vehicles at the ministry that the permanent secretary could make use of, instead of making such a purchase at this time," said Williams, former minister of state in the Ministry of Finance.
When challenged with the claim that the vehicle was ordered when his party formed the Government, Williams argued that it is the permanent secretary in each ministry who decides on how the money is spent.
"If as a minister I need a vehicle, I would have to ask the permanent secretary. If he said no then it is no. He is the administrator; he makes the decisions."
The agriculture ministry reportedly has a fleet of 15 vehicles available for the use of its officials.