Correction & Clarification
The headline of The Gavel incorrectly asserted that Delroy Chuck, the leader of opposition business in the House of Representatives, has pointed to the tardiness of the political ombudsman. Mr Chuck made no such claim. As stated in the body of the article, his statements, made in the House last week, relate to the public defender. We regret the error.
DELROY CHUCK has the makings of a good fast bowler. During Tuesday's sitting of the House of Representatives, he sent a sharp, rising delivery past the nose of Earl Witter, the incapable public defender.
Not only did Chuck bring it to the attention of the House of Representatives that Witter's failure to deliver the long-overdue Tivoli Report had left egg on the face of Speaker Micheal Peart, but he also urged that an investigation be carried out to verify reports that all is not well at the Office of the Public Defender.
That first ball delivered by Chuck, we believe, has left the captain (Peart) with no option but to go for the kill. Fielders must be under the bat because this sorry excuse for a batsman has got to go.
We hope West Kingston Member of Parliament Desmond McKenzie is well loose and ready to run in and deliver. McKenzie must go for the Adam's apple. He should move a resolution in the House for the removal of Witter from the office of public defender.
Under the Public Defender Act, the public defender shall hold office until he attains the age of 70 years. He, however, may be removed from office for a variety of reasons, including, among them, his inability to discharge the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of body or mind or any other cause) or for misbehaviour.
The Act states that if each House of Parliament, by resolution, decides that the question of removing the public defender from office ought to be considered, then the governor general, acting after consultation with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, must appoint a tribunal to consider the matter.
The tribunal shall consist of a chairman and not less than two other members, from among persons who hold or have held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court. Such tribunal is then required to enquire into the matter and advise the governor general whether the public defender ought to be removed from office.
The Office of the Public Defender has been in flagrant breach of public-sector policy, failing to furnish Parlia-ment with annual reports and financial statements since March 2010. And even so, the reports submitted were for the calendar years 2006, 2007 and 2008.
It means that although the taxpayers have spent $233.9 million over the last three years on this office, we have no idea if the money is falling into a black hole, especially since no reports have been tabled for calendar years 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
This sick joke must end!
For us, Witter's stay at the crease is not intolerable only because of his failure to deliver the report more than two and a half years after the incident. Indeed, there are resource constraints. But notwithstanding the nature of the wicket he was batting on, Witter made several unrealistic promises for the delivery of the report, and his failure to meet his own deadline has resulted in irreparable damage to his tenure.
We can't wait until April next year when he turns 70.
And while Earl Witter should be kicked out of the public defender's office, we are hoping that Cabinet, further to a recommendation from the Parliament, will call curtains on the Office of the Political Ombudsman.
That office is no longer useful to Jamaica and is nothing but an unnecessary drain on the public purse.
We find it laughable that the political ombudsman, in his most recent report, has found the gall to recommend to Parliament that it give him more staff to carry out the duties at his redundant office.
In his 2011 annual report, which was only tabled last Tuesday, a full two years after the review period ended, Blair has recommended that the office be "given its complete staff complement" to include a full-time legal counsel and full-time investigators.
Blair should have used this report, very late though it is, to invite Parliament to consider closing the doors of his office for good.
Here it is that his office, which is already a drag on the public purse to the tune of $8 million per year, is seeking to have Parliament provide more resources for honeymoon activities.
An entry-level legal officer is paid $1.7-$2.0 million per year based on the government's 2010 salary scale. A senior investigator earns between $1.8 million and $2.2 million per year, which is a shade below the $1.8 million paid to entry-level investigators.
Blair's 42-page fluff report, which is contained in a 5.5 x 8.5 booklet (hardly bigger than a funeral programme) is devoid of useful information, and is an insult to the Parliament and people of Jamaica. Twelve of the pages are pictorials, articles and press releases which were published in newspapers.
We find it, at the very least, to be lazy of the political ombudsman, to merely mention to Parliament that certain acts of political intimidation were identified in 2011 and "likely to warrant criminal prosecution".
The political ombudsman pointed to 25 cases - some containing wild allegations - but, despite sending the report to Parliament late, obviously did no follow-up work to ascertain what has been the result of the police investigation.
To be presenting the cases to Parliament in that manner, after such a time lapse, is shameful.
The time has come for Jamaica to rid itself of non-performing public servants and to shut down offices which are no longer necessary for the advancement of the country. Witter and the Office of the Political Ombudsman are in our firing line.
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