Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
APPROXIMATELY J$60 million has been spent by the Portia Simpson Miller administration to provide some of its ministers with new high-end vehicles since taking office almost a year ago.
Information released by Jamaica House, following questions asked during yesterday's Jamaica House press briefing, indicates that 20 vehicles have been purchased for ministers at a cost of nearly US$694,000.
Yesterday, Sandrea Falconer, the minister with responsibility for information, said the purchase of the vehicles was necessary.
"Many ministers, on assumption of office in January, were not assigned official vehicles as many of them were sold to the outgoing ministers," Falconer said.
The Government provided a list which showed that 30 SUVs were sold to outgoing ministers and permanent secretaries. The total cost of the vehicles is J$28.9 million.
Vehicles were sold for prices as low as J$499,700 in the case of a 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser, which was purchased by Donovan Stanberry, the permanent secretary in the agriculture ministry.
Jamaica House said the vehicles were sold in accordance with the Government's comprehensive motor-vehicle policy.
In the meantime, Falconer said many ministers, on taking office, were driving their personal motor vehicles and "were incurring monthly costs for upkeep and fuel way above the car allowance".
Ministers who drive their own vehicles are not given a fuel allowance.
The vehicles purchased were a shade below or at the level of the maximum allowable spend on government vehicles. The maximum amount allowed is US$35,000 per vehicle. The amount was increased from the previous upper limit of US$29,500 following a Cabinet decision in August 2011.
The cheapest vehicle purchased for new government ministers was a 2012 Audi for Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips. The car cost US$32,327.96. The other vehicles, all SUVs, were a shade under from the US$35,000 upper limit.