Letter of the Day | Urgent action needed to cauterise rot at FLA
THE EDITOR, Madam:
From as far back as 2017, the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA) has been advocating against the poor contract administration practices in the Government, and we have used the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) as a prime example of this. We have been proven right, time and time again, that there is need for deep oversight at the FLA.
This is again evidenced by The Gleaner article yesterday, ‘FLA under the gun’, indicating that the CEO of the FLA has received a contract that is not in keeping with the Government of Jamaica’s Fixed-Term Contract Policy.
I am not surprised by this new development. The JCSA has seen that despite our severe protestations against how the CEO has managed contracts at the FLA, the sitting CEO has been rewarded by being placed on public boards, and receiving a five-year contract, despite our protests for his contract not to be renewed, due to the very breaches that the auditor general has cited in one of her reports of a loss of at least $8 million (without surcharge).
We have seen the FLA CEO being appointed to chair the Local Government Services Commission, despite his clear breach of workers’ rights, as ruled by the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT)!
I recall at the time that the then Minister of National Security responded to one of my letters to say he had full confidence in the CEO, and warned me that I could be criminally charged for creating public mischief. I remained, and still am, undeterred.
The appointment of the FLA CEO to the Local Government Services Commission is very strange. Notwithstanding the FLA CEO being an attorney-at-law, he is a currently serving public officer with proven human resource violations, so presiding over the fate of public officers (his peers) employed in the various municipal corporations seems antithetical to the tenets of Fairness, Respect, Accountability, Merit, Equity, Integrity and Transparency, or ‘FRAME IT’.
Without leave from the attorney general, as per the Staff Orders, the FLA CEO has sued me (as JCSA president and a fellow public officer) for defamation in bringing to light what has now been proven to be true by the auditor general. To further rub salt into the wound, a ‘sweetheart’ contract has been given to the CEO, despite what the Government’s adviser on financial prudence has advised - that the man at the helm of the FLA has cost the Government millions, and has a contract that could also cost it millions.
Notwithstanding the legal challenges against me, I am claiming qualified privilege as JCSA president to comment on all matters affecting the public service and involving any public officer on a matter that is based on the report of a public authority and is in the media as facts, not opinion. I am sure that even the protected disclosure legislation safeguards trade unions from defamation action by public officers, but I digress.
REAPING WHAT WE HAVE NEGLECTFULLY SOWN
The JCSA has repeatedly requested from the Ministry of Finance an overhaul of the Fixed-Term Contract Policy of the GOJ, and we specifically cited the FLA. It is now being said that the ministry with responsibility for the public service is toothless to act, when its own authority has been ignored by the issuing of a contract with the reported terms that are set out in the FLA CEO’s contract.
Indeed, I have made representations to the highest public office in the land on the matter, and instructions were sent down for this review but, alas, nothing material has been done. Now we are reaping what we have neglectfully sown.
There are remedies to this maladministration. It could mean a nullification of the contract; it could also mean that the person who signed the CEO’s contract must be held accountable, whether it is the board chairman or the permanent secretary, for this obvious breach.
Since we are now in the season of surcharge, the Ministry of Finance must also institute proceedings to determine if the CEO must be surcharged for the loss occasioned by his actions which has cost the Government millions.
Also, The FLA CEO’s appointment to the Local Government Services Commission must be seriously reviewed in light of the CEO’s antecedents, which were known, or ought to have been known, at the time he was appointed.
Urgent action is required to cauterise the rot at the FLA.
O’NEIL W. GRANT, MBA
Jamaica Civil Service Association