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Gov’t changes Companies Office CEO

Hill mum on ‘new direction’

Published:Friday | June 24, 2022 | 12:11 AMHuntley Medley - Associate Business Editor
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Judith Ramlogan, former CEO of the Companies Office of Jamaica.
File Judith Ramlogan, former CEO of the Companies Office of Jamaica.
Minister of Industry Investment & Commerce, Aubyn Hill.
Minister of Industry Investment & Commerce, Aubyn Hill.
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Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Aubyn Hill has remained mum on an apparent shake-up of state agencies under his portfolio, despite having ended the employment of the long-standing and highly respected chief executive of the Companies...

Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Aubyn Hill has remained mum on an apparent shake-up of state agencies under his portfolio, despite having ended the employment of the long-standing and highly respected chief executive of the Companies Office of Jamaica, COJ, attorney-at-law Judith Ramlogan, and is said to be pressing ahead with the planned merger of two key business financing institutions within the portfolio.

Hill has not commented on information in business circles that the changes already made, and still to come, in the industry, investment and commerce agencies of government were part of a ‘new direction’ in which he is said to be taking the ministry.

Last week, the permanent secretary in the ministry, Sancia Bennett Templer, confirmed reports reaching the Financial Gleaner that plans are afoot to merge the Development Bank of Jamaica and the Export Import Bank of Jamaica Limited, doing away with the latter entity.

Like his response when asked about the merger, Hill referred Financial Gleaner queries about the departure of the Companies Office CEO to Bennett Templer, noting that it was a staffing matter, which he does not deal with, adding that he was responsible for policy. Bennett Templer confirmed in a conversation on the margins of last week’s World Free Zones international conference in Montego Bay, that Ramlogan’s contract had ended and that the ministry was recruiting a new CEO.

“We have advertised the position. The deputy CEO has been acting for some time now,” Bennett Templer said.

Reached by the Financial Gleaner, Ramlogan confirmed the expiration and non-renewal of her contract. She said her last day in office was May 31. She declined to comment on information reaching the Financial Gleaner that she was given insufficient formal notice of, or reasons for, the ministry’s intention not to renew her contract, and would not say whether the termination would be challenged.

“I am taking the time to consider all options and the best way forward,” Ramlogan, who led the agency for 20 of the 23 years she was employed there, told the Financial Gleaner.

The COJ is an executive agency of the government and under the Executive Agencies Act of 2002, the CEO reports directly to the respective portfolio minister, who, by extension, must agree to any appointment or termination, contrary to Hill’s comments about the CEO’s removal being a staffing matter that was within the purview of the permanent secretary.

The executive agencies law gives powers of performance review of the CEO to the permanent secretary, who is responsible for updating the minister on the chief executive’s work.

“The permanent secretary in the responsible ministry shall, on behalf of the responsible Minister and in consultation with the CEO, review the CEO’s performance generally, or in respect of any particular matter,” according to the legislation.

The CEO’s performance and tenure are also expected to be governed by the employment contract, as well as a framework document and performance agreement, which are to be agreed with and signed by the CEO and monitored by the permanent secretary.

The Companies Office is a self-financing public entity that collects fees to finance its approximately $400-million budget each year. It is responsible for registering and monitoring the filings of limited liability companies, business names and charitable organisations.

During her tenure, Ramlogan was credited with having led the COJ to the attainment of ISO 9001:2015 quality management system certification for business service, simplifying business registration, and significantly cutting wait times for business registration.

She has pointed to other major achievements as including the introduction of electronic business registration, Jamaica’s consistently high ranking in the World Bank’s business survey in relation to starting a business, the creation of a new unit to administer the Jamaican government’s anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism obligations, and administering the government’s Security Interest In Personal Property platform that allows persons to use personal property as collateral.

Since 2016, the Companies Office has operated a Montego Bay regional office that was expanded to larger premises in the city two years ago. It has also operated a mobile unit to drive business registrations in rural parishes not served by a physical office.

huntley.medley@gleanerjm.com