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PAJ ordered to pay $40m to retired execs

Published:Monday | April 1, 2019 | 12:09 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer

Jamaican taxpayers have again been asked to fork out a significant sum of money because of the failure of a government agency to fulfil its contractual obligations.

In a ruling handed down last Friday by the downtown Kingston-based Court of Appeal, the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) has been ordered to pay nearly $40 million in total, with interest, to two former senior executives of the agency.

The former employees, Beverley Williamson, who served as a senior vice-president, and Richard Roberts, who was vice-president of legal services, said they were denied retirement benefits after they left the agency.

Williamson retired on June 30, 2016, after 21 years of service to the PAJ under a total of eight consecutive contracts of employment, while Roberts retired on December 31, 2014, after 16 years of service under a similar arrangement.

The Court of Appeal found that the two former employees were entitled to retirement benefits as stated in their respective contracts.

This undoes a 2017 ruling by the Supreme Court that found that the PAJ did not act in breach of its duty of good faith to the appellants and did not act irrationally in declining to grant retirement benefits to Williamson and Roberts.

The court ruled that the PAJ is contractually obligated to pay a discretionary retirement benefit in accordance with the contracts of employment made between the state agency and its former employees.

The ruling outlined that Williamson should be paid $22.3 million at three per cent interest per annum from June 30, 2016, to the date of payment.

Roberts should be paid just over $16 million with three per cent interest per annum from December 31, 2014, to the date of payment.

It was also ruled that the PAJ should pay the legal fees of the former employees.

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis in 2016 directed that the PAJ should take action to recover sums paid to retired executives of the authority under a discretionary retirement scheme that was not approved by the Ministry of Finance.