Mon | Sep 25, 2023

Jackson issues warning over Holness’ vote call on information

Published:Tuesday | January 25, 2022 | 12:13 AM

Fitz Jackson, the St Catherine South member of parliament, is cautioning colleague lawmakers who sit on the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) against calling for a vote to determine whether information requested from public servants should be produced.

His warning came after St Andrew East Rural Member of Parliament Juliet Holness called for a vote on whether Audrey Sewell, permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, should produce, among other things, a report on a reclassification of salaries and emoluments for the workers at HEART/NSTA Trust.

At last week’s sitting of the PAAC, committee Chairman Mikael Phillips had requested that Sewell provide the committee with information on the individual at the HEART/NSTA Trust who received a missive from the Ministry of Finance on a new salary structure for senior staff at the entity.

He also wanted the permanent secretary to produce a copy of a report prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) on reclassified salaries for the staff of HEART/NSTA Trust.

It was revealed last week that a reported decision by former managing director of the training agency, Janet Dyer, who approved salary increases for senior personnel without first getting the nod from the Ministry of Finance, had led to the board’s non-renewal of her contract.

Excessive burden

However, committee member Juliet Holness disagreed with the chairman’s approach, saying the issue being discussed did not raise a question about “the classifications or the structures or, in fact, what the Government finally decided [should be] the pay scale for the individuals”.

Said Holness: “What the issue raised is the gap of one individual in an organisation being able to ignore the approvals of the Ministry of Finance and unilaterally was able to increase the payments and have them executed.”

She argued that the committee should be mindful of the workload of permanent secretaries when suggesting that they go through a process that would cause excessive burden.

But Jackson said he did not share Holness’ view on the matter.

“No, I don’t subscribe to that; the buck stops somewhere,” Jackson declared.

With Holness countering saying, “we’ll have to put that to a vote”, the committee descended into a shouting match.

“I want to put to a vote the request that the PWC report and structure be taken by the permanent secretary and a report done to come to the committee for something that’s not an issue,” said Holness.

In his remarks, Jackson said, “The practice of this committee over the many years across administrations [is that] when matters come to the committee, members have the privilege of seeking whatever information that they want to give clarity on the issue.”

Jackson said he felt uncomfortable with Holness’ approach of calling for a vote in relation to queries for information being sought by the committee.