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Small price to pay - Shaw defends FINSAC enquiry bill

Published:Tuesday | January 19, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Tyrone Reid, Staff Reporter

In a staunch defence of the millions of taxpayer dollars being spent on the "commission of enquiry into the 1990s collapse of the financial sector", Finance Minister Audley Shaw said the approximately $80 million budgeted for the controversial exercise was a very small price to pay for the lessons to be learnt.

An unwavering Shaw, who insisted that the truth-seeking exercise was "value for money", told The Gleaner that powerful interests were attempting to derail the enquiry, but he vowed that it would "continue to the bitter end".

"Compare the cost of an enquiry of $79 million to $140 billion, which is what it (the financial sector meltdown) has cost the country."

Official documents gleaned under the Access to Information (ATI) Act showed that the Ministry of Finance budgeted $79.9 million for the FINSAC enquiry. The ATI request for the documents detailing expenditure on the enquiry was made in December 2009 but was satisfied by the finance ministry yesterday.

Most of the budgeted expenditure is going into the pockets of the experts hired to conduct the enquiry. The lion's share of the budgeted amount should end up in the pockets of the three commissioners. According to the documents, Justice Boyd Carey, chairman of the commission, is to be paid $15.12 million for 70 "man days".

Justice Carey is being paid at an hourly rate of US$300, or a daily rate of US$2,400. The other two commissioners - Charles Ross and Worrick Bogle - are both to be paid $7.56 million each, bringing the total being paid to the commissioners of the enquiry to $30.24 million.

Political ploy

Despite the financial straightjacket his Government has admitted it is in, Shaw pledged that the Government would find the money to continue the enquiry.

The minister is convinced that the revelation of the payment details is a political ploy being used to end the enquiry.

The government documents also revealed that Justice Carey's budgeted payment was matched only by what was set aside to pay noted attorney RNA Henriques. He, too, is being paid $15.12 million. Another attorney, whose substantive function is to "marshall evidence", is to be paid $11.7 million. The secretary to the commission is set to earn $8.1 million for "75 man days".

With the Government owning scores of buildings, the finance ministry, inexplicably, opted to rent facilities at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel on Knutsford Boulevard in New Kingston. The ATI documents showed that a little over $5 million was budgeted under "accommo-dation" for some 60 "man days".

A copy of the contract signed between the finance ministry and the Jamaica Pegasus hotel detailed that the Government was to pay "US$1,000 per month plus general consumption tax, payable quarterly in advance" for using the hotel's facility to house the secretariat for the commission of enquiry.

The duration was for six months, commencing May, 18, 2009, but was renewable subject to "mutual agreement of terms and conditions for additional years". It has been eight months since the commencement date noted in the contract.