Member of the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Delano Seiveright has defended his travel expenditure as communications consultant to the Tourism Enhancement Fund following revelations that he racked up a travel bill of $8.9 million within a year.
Former tourism minister Dr Wykeham McNeill, who also chairs parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), mentioned the figure today and indicated that he is concerned about it.
Fuming Government members of the PAAC accused him of veering off the day’s agenda.
But Dr McNeil, who also is Opposition Spokesman on Tourism, explained that the disclosure regarding Seiveright’s employment became necessary today because it was omitted from a list of consultants presented at the previous meeting of the PAAC.
Government member of the PAAC Juliet Holness eventually argued that Seiveright’s travel expenditure is in line with the higher income now being raked in by the tourism ministry. In response to that argument, McNeil emitted a seemingly sarcastic chuckle.
The PAAC meeting then recessed for some 10 minutes amid flaring tempers.
Seiveright, in a subsequent press statement, described Dr McNeil’s efforts as an ‘attack’ on him.
“Mr McNeill’s actions as Chairman of the PAAC is not only unprecedented and disgraceful, but represents a gross abuse of his power,” added Seiveright.
He did not dispute the travel expenditure disclosed at the PAAC meeting, but indicted that the country got value for money.
“The fact is that the Ministry of Tourism and its agencies take part in extensive and tiring travelling as the business is overseas. This is the very nature of tourism and has been the case for decades,” Seiveright said.
He continued: “We brought 500,000 more tourists to Jamaica’s shores in 2017 over 2016; that’s just one year, totalling 4.3 million tourists. This is as many as or exceeds what McNeil delivered in his four years in office from 2012 to early 2016 as minister – a really lacklustre performance in a generally great global economic environment.”
Seiveright added that the country collected more than $375 billion in revenues from tourism in 2017 alone. “Yet another record. It is no surprise why McNeill then is so afraid to make a sectoral debate presentation.”
Seiveright added that the controversy regarding his employment will not dampen his efforts.
“Our work for the people of Jamaica will continue, and we will not be dissuaded by persons propelled by negativity,” he said.
The PAAC, in the meantime, will further discuss the employment of Seiveright and other consultants at a later date.
By Horace Mills