Sat | Sep 25, 2021

Tufton dodges Market Me questions

Published:Friday | July 31, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton.
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton on Thursday dodged questions on whether marketing firm Market Me Consulting had ever been engaged by him personally or as a member of parliament.

Market Me has been the subject of increased scrutiny over questions over whether Tufton had a relationship with one of the principals of Market Me that presented a conflict of interest.

Pressed on whether his purported affiliation was problematic, Tufton sternly deflected queries.

“This press briefing is called COVID Conversations. It has been the case since we started having it. I am going to respectfully ask that we confine our discussions to COVID and the very important issue that is of so much concern to Jamaicans,” said Tufton on Thursday.

The minister suggested that there would be other opportunities for that question to be asked.

Tufton was further asked whether he had ordered ministry staff to locate Market Me’s Jamaica Moves evaluation report that Permanent Secretary Dunstan Bryan revealed during Wednesday’s meeting of the Public Appropriations and Administration Committee (PAAC) to be missing.

Again, Tufton declined comment.

The health and wellness ministry has paid out more than $87 million in contracts with Market Me that did not go to public tender.

Bryan told the PAAC that the emerging dispute over ownership of the intellectual property rights to Jamaica Moves had been turned over to the Attorney General’s Chambers.

“The ministry’s position is that we own the Jamaica Moves brand. However, the firm is of the opinion that they own the brand,” he said.

Market Me registered the trademark in 2018 after inking its first contract with the health and wellness ministry the previous year.

Tufton disclosed on Thursday that the permanent secretary was on a “well-deserved” leave.