Thu | Sep 23, 2021

Staff of political oversight body denied gratuity, pensions

Published:Tuesday | January 19, 2021 | 12:13 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Everald Warmington
Everald Warmington

Nearly two decades after some members of the Office of the Political Ombudsman (OPO) were hired by the commission of Parliament, the workers have not received gratuity due to them.

The issue was highlighted in the 2018 annual report of the Office of the Political Ombudsman that was tabled in Parliament last week.

Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown told The Gleaner on Monday that staff hired from 2002 when the office started have never received a gratuity and are not eligible for pension.

Concerned about the well-being of her staff, the political ombudsman said that despite a recommendation in 2013 for the workers to be given a gratuity, to date, that has not happened.

Not entitled to pension

Based on government policy, the positions approved for operation in the OPO are not part of the civil-service establishment. As such, the workers are not entitled to a pension from the Government.

However, current policy provides for the payment of gratuity of a maximum of 25 per cent of basic salary earned to persons employed on contract for a minimum of two years.

The staff complement of the OPO is six officers. In addition, there is one close-protection officer of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and 20 JCF liaison officers who provide support with investigations.

Parchment Brown said that the matter has been brought to the attention of the commission established under Section 8(4) of the Political Ombudsman (Interim) Act to be addressed urgently and a decision on a 25 per cent gratuity requested to be awarded.

At the same time, Parchment Brown has recommended in her annual report that emoluments of the OPO be benchmarked.

Same salary since 2007

The political ombudsman’s salary was last adjusted in 2007, according to the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service.

The emoluments of other commissions of Parliament are benchmarked against that of a puisne judge.

“A request has been made for this benchmark to apply to the political ombudsman to avoid burdening the commission with the duty to determine such adjustments,” the ministry stated in a July 2017 correspondence with the OPO.

However, to date, no benchmarking of the political ombudsman’s emoluments has been done.

St Catherine South West Member of Parliament Everald Warmington, who in the past called for the scrapping of the OPO, said he was not in support of the emoluments of the political ombudsman being benchmarked to that of a puisne judge.

“As far as I am concerned, her salary cannot be pegged to that of a puisne judge because she doesn’t do the job of a puisne judge.”

“I have been vocal against that and I still am … . As a matter of fact, I think she is overpaid at this moment,” Warmington said.