Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
WITH AT least $1.4 billion of taxpayers' money being spent on the rental of office space for government departments, a key parliamentary oversight body yesterday demanded specific timelines on the implementation of the widely debated Public Sector Rationalisation Programme.
Making a presentation before Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) in Gordon House yesterday, head of the Public Sector Transformation Unit (PSTU), Patricia Sinclair McCalla, revealed that "over the last three years, we (Government) were now paying $1.4 billion in rental".
Her revelation comes as PAAC members agitate for early implementation of the programme which, among other things, is intended to significantly cut public-sector fat such as exorbitant rental costs.
Cabinet Secretary Ambassador Douglas Saunders told members of the committee that he could not provide definitive dates for the implementation of the programme.
However, he indicated that the start-up exercise could get under way by January 2013.
Committee chairman Edmund Bartlett argued that it could not be in the country's interest for the wage bill to continue to represent a large percentage of the country's GDP. "What has to be done must be done in good time," the PAAC chairman stressed.
Bartlett reminded the committee that the Public Sector Rationalisation Programme was a precursor to the signing of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
Jamaica had committed to cut its public-sector wage bill from about 11.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to nine per cent of GDP by 2016.
One committee member was not in a mood to entertain excuses as to why the rationalisation exercise has not started.
"I am impatient of the never-ending process," committee member Fitz Jackson declared.
"Let us use Parliament to pressure our own colleagues at Cabinet to expedite this in the context of the urgency of this overall programme that we are trying to pursue," he added.
Commenting on rental costs to the public sector, Sinclair McCalla said her unit was seeking to identify government property and buildings that could be refurbished to accommodate various state offices.
She said her unit was also exploring how the Government could create synergies by setting up a one-stop shop facility to expedite business in one location.
"The proposal that is now being presented for consideration is how to create at the parish-level government centres where all government offices reside," the PSTU head explained.