Douglas wants minimum bachelor’s requirement for political reps
WATERFORD COUNCILLOR Fenley Douglas wants a minimum qualification requirement of a bachelor’s degree for representatives seeking political office. The qualification, he maintains, must be ascertained even before they apply to their party for consideration to contest elections.
Douglas, a staunch advocate for salary increases and benefits for councillors, described the salary they were receiving prior to the increase announced last week by Minister of Finance and Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke, as embarrassing, inadequate and a slap in the face.
He welcomes the Government’s decision to grant a salary increase to councillors, noting that in some cases where councillors have minimum qualifications it is well deserving.
“I welcomed the increases as a hard-working and qualified councillor,” Douglas told The Gleaner in an interview. “I would not give my salary back because I am a hard worker who spend my salary in my division. But what I will say is that there must be a stipulation as to who can offer themselves for elected office.
“I strongly believe that every elected representative must have a first degree to qualify to represent the people, some of whom are much brighter than them,” he noted.
According to Douglas, it makes no sense having political representatives without a minimum qualification collecting huge salaries, while in other areas of government a minimum qualification of a first degree is required.
“How can we have persons handling millions of dollars, as in the case of the Constituency Development Fund, for example, and don’t have even a minimum qualification. Even a teller in a bank nowadays has to possess a first degree,” the Portmore Municipal councillor noted.
He said a manifestation of lacking requisite educational background and experience is seen in budget overruns for projects.
“We are seeing projects going to tender for a few million dollars running into tens of millions before completion. This is also an indication of a lack of knowledge, among other factors,” Douglas outlined.
The Waterford councillor says along with the salary increases granted, there should be further clarification of a councillor’s status in Government’s service operations.
“Right now we don’t know if we are a public servant or a civil servant. We are told that we are not even a member of staff at the municipal corporations. All this should be clarified,” he said, arguing that a stipulated qualification would define their status.
Douglas said travelling and motor vehicle upkeep, along with other benefits, should also be considered by Government as part of the overall remuneration package.