JUTC clears the air

Friday, July 31, 2020

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EMBATTLED State-run bus company, Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) is firing back at Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis's performance audit which cited unchecked spending and improper recruitment practises.

In a release last night, the company said it noted the public interest generated by the findings which highlighted several deficiencies and breaches across the former administration (2014-2016) and the current is indicative of broad and wide-ranging challenges.

“While we appreciate the incisive analysis of the issues raised by the auditor general, the board and management wish to make it clear that there are some areas of the report which require further elaboration for accuracy,” said the release.

“Consequently, the board has written to the auditor general to retract the report because it has factual and inaccurate information. We are not saying all the report is wrong, but it failed to mention several measures and pieces of information requested and provided,” it continued.

In relation to breaches, the company said it required further elaboration and context. The auditor general identified unapproved staff capacity that cost an accumulated $1.115 billion.

“We acknowledge this challenge...This dates back to 2006 during which time we have written to the Ministry of Finance on several occasions to have [the] post established,” said the release.

“Regarding post numbers...We have since reduced our staff complement from 2,252 in May 2016 to 1,956 as at July 2020,” the release continued.

As for exceeding overtime budget by $728 million, the board said decisions were arrived at a meeting yesterday morning.

“Any expenditure outside of budget must be taken to the Finance Committee for discussion/approval; and all overtime must be sent to HR Committee, then to Finance along with management's justification... Since March 2020, overtime has been reduced from $25.83m to $11.34m in June 2020,” the release said.

On Tuesday, Monroe Ellis tabled a report in Parliament with allegations that JUTC has been used as a “feeding tree” for party supporters over many years.

Monroe Ellis said her department found several instances in which people were employed to the JUTC in positions for which they were not qualified, and the vacancies had never been advertised.

These included a managing director who was employed with a high school diploma even though the post required a postgraduate degree in management/industrial engineering, or equivalent qualifications, from a recognised tertiary institution.

“However, we found no evidence that the positions for nine of 21 senior managers sampled were advertised, and no evidence that eight senior managers were interviewed in accordance with guidelines.

“Further, we gleaned that, despite the advertisement for the position of a security manager in December 2018, and interviews conducted with four candidates, the JUTC engaged another officer, who was not a part of the official recruitment process, on a one-year contract,” said Monroe Ellis.

The JUTC board has mandated that “all persons without qualifications must commence enrolment of a programme in the area of their work/specialisation no later than September 2020 at a recognised tertiary institution. And if by this date there is no progress, the board will sanction such employee,” said the release.

The bus company also noted that the final report was emailed to the Office of the Managing Director on Monday, July 27, 2020 at 10:18 am for final review and comments before submission to the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday, July 28.

“The managing director was asked to confirm whether he agrees with the figures included therein, including the numbers reflected in the key findings. All pertinent information has been provided by JUTC, specific to the observations raised, and all information contained in the report is accurate (errors and/or omissions). We find it extremely unfortunate this action taken by the auditor general's office, and place on record our disappointment,” the release concluded.

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