Government senator Matthew Samuda has thrown out a challenge for Opposition parliamentarian Dr Wykeham McNeill to declare whether nepotism during his tenure as tourism minister allowed two of his relatives to rake in millions of dollars from Government.
He said Dr McNeill should not continue to chair parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) until he answers the questions.
Samuda posed the questions today after Dr McNeill used a recent PAAC meeting to lament that a number of persons, linked to the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), are now employed to the tourism ministry.
Dr McNeill also recently raised concern that former JLP candidate Delano Seiveright, within a year, racked up a travel bill of $8.9 million in his capacity as a tourism ministry consultant.
Senator Samuda, in the Senate today, questioned Dr McNeill’s motive for raising concern recently about the current travel arrangements. “I would hate to think that his issue with the travelling of the [tourism] ministry is that the [flight] bookings didn’t go where he wants them to go,” he said.
He further claimed that one of Dr McNeill’s relatives is a travel agency director.
“The Chairman of the PAAC [Dr McNeill] must come to the country if he is to continue sitting in that position, and tell us if a procurement exercise would have allowed a relative of his sitting in the directorship of a travel agency to book all travel for the Ministry of Tourism,” Samuda said.
He also asked if another arrangement allowed Dr McNeill’s sister to earn millions.
“The current Chairman of the PAAC [Dr McNeill] must tell the country whether it is true that, during his tenure as minister of tourism, his sister racked up millions of dollars as part of the administrative staff between 2002 and 2007. If that is true, that is nepotism. He must come to the country and tell us where he stands,” the Government senator further said.
During his presentation, Opposition senator Lambert Brown raised objections to the questions being asked. He claimed that Samuda was ascribing improper motive to Dr McNeill.
President of the Senate Tom Tavares-Finson disagreed, adding: “He (Samuda) has not breached Standing Orders, neither is he suggesting motive of impropriety. He is clearly asking a question,” the Senate president said.
Dr McNeill does not sit in the Senate and so didn’t have an opportunity to respond immediately to the questions posed today, June 15.