KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday July 12, 2017 – Prime Minister Andrew Holness has ordered an audit of the cellphone bills of all ministers and a cap on cell phone expenses, on the heels of a whopping J$8 million (US$62,612) bill racked up by Minister of Finance Audley Shaw.
He said the situation was unacceptable and had to be addressed immediately.
It was during a meeting of Cabinet Ministers that he called yesterday to discuss and review the issue of communication costs and high cellular phone bills being incurred for roaming and data charges, that the Prime Minister ordered an audit of all cell phone bills of Ministers and State Ministers.
Coming out of the meeting, it was also acknowledged that there was no standard, clear and consistent policy being applied across government regarding the treatment of communication expenses for Ministers and Ministers of State.
“The Prime Minister therefore directed the Ministry of Finance to review and report on the respective policies for the provision of communication services including cell phones, operating in the various Ministries. This is to allow Cabinet to make a comprehensive decision on how communication services and expenses for Ministers are treated,” a Government statement said.
In the interim, the Prime Minister directed that cellular phone expenses be capped.
The Ministry of Finance has been tasked to advise the Prime Minister, within a week, on the appropriate amount for the cap to be paid by each ministry for the Minister’s cellular phone bills. Any amount exceeding the cap would be the responsibility of the respective Ministers unless otherwise approved by the Permanent Secretary.
“In furtherance of their Ministerial responsibility to be frugal with the public purse, notwithstanding that most of the costs incurred would have been in pursuit of the Government’s business, [Cabinet members] have committed to reimburse the Government retroactively the difference between actual bill and the capped amount to be determined and imposed,” the Government said.
In the meantime, the Minister of Science, Energy and Technology is being mandated to enter into discussions with telecommunications providers to devise standard cell phone and data packages for Government Ministers.