KINGSTON, Jamaica, July 18, 2018 - Civil society groups as well as Jamaica's private sector have recomended that Science and Technology Minister Dr. Andrew Wheatley be excluded from Petrojam related deliberations at Cabinet meetings.
This is one of a number of recommendations in an open letter to the Prime Minister from the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches (JUGC), National Integrity Action (NIA), the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC).
They said the declining public confidence in Jamaican authorities is now approaching crisis proportions, which is reflected in many aspects of the society.
These include unprecedentedly low voter turnout, growing disregard for law and order, declining involvement in community organisations and increasing support for undemocratic solutions to deal with high levels of crime and corruption.
The letter is the result of a meeting held by the groups on Monday which resulted in a demand for the government address issues relating to Petrojam, and have asked for a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss and seek agreement on the recommendations, as a matter of urgency.
They said that urgent action was needed to deal with the situation at Petrojam, and more generally, to curb practices of nepotism, cronyism, favouritism and other evils that have long scarred governance of public bodies and contributed to waste of taxpayers' money.
Among these actions are for the former Energy Minister to be immediately excluded or recuse himself from all deliberations of Cabinet or Cabinet sub-committees relating to Petrojam, including discussions of reports, investigations, reforms and system reviews.
They said that the Integrity Commission, the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) and the Auditor General's Office should be provided with the necessary resources to ensure the completion of their investigations and report into Petrojam within three months.
The groups added that these reports should be laid in Parliament immediately thereafter.
They also want the terms of reference, composition and deliverables of the strategic committee tasked with reviewing Petrojam's operations, to be disclosed publicly.
Additionally, the groups want the committee, which is to be chaired by Christopher Zacca, to submit its report and recommendations within three months and these be made public.
It noted that no corrective measures were taken based on reports and recommendations from oversight bodies in the past, particularly, in relation to Petrojam.
It is for this reason the groups are calling for the Board of Petrojam to be required to report quarterly on the implementation of agreed recommendations.
In the meantime, the groups called for action to be taken against persons in breach of regulations governing public bodies.
They want the codes, guidelines and laws relating to corporate governance for all public bodies to be implemented, monitored and enforced with attendant sanctions when violated or not implemented.
This process, they say, should be supervised by a public-private-civil society partnership body, which would report to Parliament annually as well as provide quarterly reports to the public.
The groups noted that the administrative responsibility for the development and monitoring of the adherence to policy guidelines is reposed within the Public Enterprise Division of the Ministry of Finance.
But they believe that this division should be strengthened, repurposed and positioned within the Cabinet Office with the authority to impose sanctions on delinquent Boards and to report ministerial breaches to the Prime Minister.
The groups said they are willing to offer the services of the governance committee of the PSOJ to assist the division in the process of strengthening the governance protocols and designing sanctions for their breaches.
They added that the main laws, codes, guidelines and regulations relating to good governance should be consolidated into one compendium within three months, and form an essential component of governance training for all Cabinet Ministers within six months thereafter.
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