Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Golding fudging figures on enquiry

Published:Monday | February 2, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Justice Minister Mark Golding has repeatedly claimed that the hourly cost of the West Kingston enquiry is roughly the same as the hourly cost of the enquiry into the collapse of the financial sector. The minister claimed that the former is US$1,670 per hour and the latter is US$1,650 per hour, a difference of only US$20.

The minister's assertion is wrong and he should take urgent steps to apologise to the people of Jamaica for making this erroneous and misleading statement.

I have carefully set out the various categories in which the minister sought to make the comparisons.

When the rates for the chairman and two commissioners, plus the senior and junior counsel to the West Kingston commission of enquiry, as well as the secretary, are totalled, this correctly comes up to US$1,670 per hour. The minister is correct on that one.

However, when the similar positions for the financial sector enquiry are totalled, the figure is US$1,300 per hour, and not US$1,650, as claimed by Minister Golding.

magic figure arrival

In order for him to arrive at the magic figure of US$1,650 per hour for the financial sector enquiry, the minister conveniently decided to add the rates set for an economist and researcher that were only one-off rates lasting for five days each for the financial sector enquiry, and not rates which applied to the 80 projected days of the enquiry.

So Minister Golding has proved the point once again that "there are lies and there are statistics".

I, therefore, decided to do a more careful comparison of the extended costs over the period of both enquiries and the following summary gives a fair hourly cost comparison over the tenure of both.

Comparison of hourly costs of financial sector and Western Kingston Commissions of Inquiry (US$)

Positions Financial Sector Inquiry Western Kgn Inquiry

Chairman 300 370

Commissioner 150 300

Commissioner 150 300

Senior lawyer 300 300

Second lawyer 250 250

Secretary to

commissioner 150 150

Sub-total: 1,300 1,670

Secretariat

Administrative assistant 14 (8,000/mth/160 hrs) 50

Clerk 8 (10,000/mth/160 hrs) 62.50

4 Steno writers 25 (18,000/mth/160 hrs) 112.50

JDF Lawyer 250

JDF Lawyer 250

JDF Lawyer 250

JCF Lawyer 250

JCF Lawyer 250

JCF Lawyer 250

Total: $1,347 $3,395.00

The West Kingston commissioners are paid a maximum of 540 hours to write the report. The financial sector commissioners did not get this compensation.

The items listed as professional support in the financial sector enquiry were not put in the hourly costs as they were a one-off cost for five days.

From the table above, it is clear that the West Kingston commission has an hourly cost of more than twice the cost of the financial sector enquiry.

In addition to the costs already cited, a comparison of administrative costs shows an hourly cost of US$225 per hour for the West Kingston enquiry and US$47.00 for the financial sector enquiry, putting the subtotal to US$1,895.00 for the West Kingston enquiry and US$1,347 for the financial sector enquiry.

And when the hourly costs for the six lawyers assigned to the JDF and the JCF are added, an additional US$1,500 per hour must be added to the cost of the West Kingston enquiry, putting that total US$3,395 per hour, compared with US$1,347 per hour for the financial sector enquiry, a whopping US$2,048 more per hour for the West Kingston enquiry when compared with the financial sector probe. (Note, I have placed a nominal US$250 per hour for each lawyer, although I suspect that several of the senior attorneys assigned are likely to be receiving US$300 per hour, so this figure could be more, not less).

full hourly rates

The comparison does not stop there. In the West Kingston enquiry, commissioners and their lawyers and the secretary are assigned many days at full hourly rates for work other than appearing at the sittings of the Commission.

For example, the chairman and the commissioners are each given

Nine hrs a day to a maximum of 64 days for sittings of the Commission (576 days)

Five hrs per day for 10 days for pre-Commission reading time (50 days)

Five hrs per day for 15 days for after sittings (weekends) (75 days)

Nine hrs per day for 60 days for report writing time. (540 days)

For these hours, the commission chairman will be compensated up to US$459,100 (J$52.8m) and the commissioners US$372,300 (J$42.8m), the senior attorney to the West Kingston commission US$446,100 (J$51.3M) and the junior attorney US$371,750 (J$42.7m), and the secretary reportedly J$28.0m. The total cost of this enquiry is projected to be J$340m.

Audley Shaw, MP, is a former finance minister. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.