Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Jennifer Griffiths was a picture of discomfort yesterday as she attempted to defend the employment policy of her ministry amid concerns raised by Dr Wykeham McNeill, chairman of parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC).
Dr McNeill suggested that members of the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), who are employed to the tourism ministry, undermined his political leadership because he was not informed that the Tourism Enhancement Fund was undertaking work in his Westmoreland constituency.
He asked the permanent secretary: “Have you changed the terms of how you do employment at the ministry?”
Dr McNeil, who is also the opposition spokesman on tourism, listed a number of tourism ministry employees who are said to be supportive of the governing JLP or its professional affiliate known as G2K.
He mentioned President of G2K Stephen Edwards, former G2K vice-president Tova Hamilton, former G2K General Secretary Lionel Myrie, as well as former JLP candidates Dr Carey Wallace and Delano Seiveright.
Dr McNeill also said: “Permanent Secretary, when I was at the Ministry of Tourism [as minister], you were very strict in how procedures went, generally, including hiring procedures at the ministry. What is happening is that we are seeing things like these which, in a sense, take on a political connotation…”
The permanent secretary seemed shocked by those remarks. She then nodded when Government member of the PAAC Juliet Holness suggested that Dr McNeill was being offensive.
Holness then called for Dr McNeill to apologize.
“I took strong offence to the implication by the chairman [of the PAAC Dr McNeill] that the permanent secretary has somehow dropped off in terms of how she functions as a professional.”
“He should apologize because the impression [he is giving] is ‘when you worked with me you were a good permanent secretary and now I don’t know exactly whether or not you are abiding by the rules of your profession’. I take great offence to it chairman, and I think you owe her (the permanent secretary) an apology,” Holness said.
Dr McNeill, in response to Holness’ paraphrase, said: “Those were your words [Holness]. I didn’t impute anything of the sort.” He didn’t apologize.
The permanent secretary, in the closing moments of her appearance before the PAAC, tried to clear up concerns Dr McNeill had raised.
She said: “The ministry has not changed its policies nor procedures. The same ministry that you [McNeill] left, is the same ministry that’s there today.”
The permanent secretary, in the meantime, will return to the PAAC for further discussions regarding employment by the tourism ministry.
By Horace Mills