PNP calls for full investigation of the Universal Service Fund after CEO resigns

Monday, August 20, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Opposition spokesperson of science and technology, Julian Robinson, says the resignation of Camille Buchanan as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Universal Service Fund (USF) does not bring closure to the issues at the agency, and that there should be a full investigation of the entity.

The spokesman said that with clear evidence of corruption, nepotism, cronyism, systematic breaches and procedural lapses, he is reiterating his call on the leadership at the USF to be forthright in answering questions surrounding its operations.

Robinson also said that the resignation of Buchanan has accelerated the necessity for the Auditor General and the Integrity Commission to conduct a full-scale investigation of the operations of the USF.

“I am, therefore, urging the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry to invite the Auditor General and the Integrity Commission to conduct a full probe of USF,” he was quoted as saying in a release from the party.

He added that the resignation of Buchanan has opened the door to many questions regarding the role of key officials in the conduct of the agency's business and those questions can only be answered satisfactorily by an audit and detailed investigation.

Robinson said, for example, the chairman of the USF Board, Robert Lawrence has not yet answered questions posed to him in a July media release by the People's National Party (PNP) seeking to ascertain how many other persons have been hired at the agency over the last two years, in what capacity without the positions being advertised as required by the rules of the Services Commission, and whether permission was granted by, either the parent ministry or the Services Commission, to fill such positions, the release said.

According to the party, a media release from USF on 16th July, under the signature of the chairman, appears to suggest that there were other breaches, but according to him, they were excusable under the agency's policy for temporary employment. However, Robinson said, there is no such accommodation for the blatant hiring of relatives in the way they were effected at the USF, which operates under Government's HR principles.

The PNP also said that accountability or the lack thereof and the deterioration in the administrative environment at agency cannot lie solely with Buchanan, and that the Board of Directors, led by Lawrence, is equally responsible; especially because the board chairman played an active role in the day-to-day operations of the organization.

Robinson said it is clear to him that the major decisions taken by the organization were done with the knowledge and authority of the board and the chairman.

From the inception of the USF in 2006, telecoms companies, namely FLOW and Digicel have always had representatives on the Board of Directors. However, when the new board was named, these representatives were excluded without reason, the release says.

The PNP is questioning whether the Chairman can provide the rationale behind their exclusion?

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