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HAJ Board Sacked

Gov't moves to prevent 'further embarrassment' at housing agency

BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor — publications davidsonv@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, March 12, 2014    

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THE entire board of the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) was last evening told to resign as the Government moved to pull the State-run agency from sinking deeper into crisis and controversy.

The order was issued by Transport, Works and Housing Minister Dr Omar Davies, a day following Managing Director Carl Bennett's resignation after a mere three months in the post.

Bennett was the third managing director to leave the job in the past eight months and his departure was the latest in a raft of resignations of senior managers since April 2013.

Workers and their union have claimed that the resignations are the end result of a politically motivated house-cleaning aimed at removing staff members with whom the board was

not comfortable.

The board was chaired by Maureen Webber, a former deputy general secretary of the ruling People's National Party, who HAJ sources say has been a source of discontent among staff.

"It had to be cleared up before it caused any further embarrassment," a senior member of the Government told the Jamaica Observer last night.

"The chairman became too much of a muddling chairman, blurring the line between having responsibility for policy direction and day-to-day administration," said the Government member, who opted not to be named.

"It was either a deliberate act or an ignorant act in believing that as chairman you also have day-to-day operation of the agency. That is not the role of the chairman," the Government member added.

The Observer was unable to contact Webber last night

for comment.

Yesterday, the Opposition spokesman on infrastructural development, Dr Horace Chang, questioned the cause of the more than 40 resignations from the HAJ as he took the Government to task on its housing policy.

Chang said that with the National Housing Trust's commitment of $11 billion per year to handle national debt payments, it is imperative that there are no hitches in the operations of its sister agency, the HAJ, towards meeting the Government's delivery of housing solutions.

"This bungling at the HAJ must be linked to an insensitive, uncaring response to the mandate of the people of Jamaica to deliver housing solutions," Chang said in a news release.

"The sooner this turmoil at the HAJ is resolved, it will signal a capability of the Government to respond, at a time where with scarce resources, the imperative must be, to be strategically efficient in order to negotiate the delivery of responsive programmes to meet the housing needs of our citizens," Chang said.

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