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PM didn't provide full cost of overseas trips — Chang

Friday, February 14, 2014    

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THE Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has accused Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller of failing to provide Parliament with the full costs of her overseas trips on Tuesday.

"The responses leave more questions than answers as they fall short of a full account of the costs incurred by taxpayers for overseas travel by the prime minister and her accompanying delegations," said JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang in a press release on Wednesday.

He reiterated that the JLP recognised the need for the prime minister and other State officials to travel overseas in executing their duties. However, he said, it was misleading for the prime minister, in response to the questions, to provide her individual costs of $15.5 million but not those of the full delegation that travelled with her on each trip. He said that the additional costs would bring the total up to approximately $45 million.

Furhermore, Dr Chang said that the $117.8 million being reported as the total cost of travelling is also misleading, as it only reflects costs for Cabinet ministers and junior ministers, but does not take into account the cost of other members of their delegations that include advisors, administrative assistants and communications personnel among others.

"It is clear to us that this PNP (People's National Party) Government does not care about the concerns being voiced across Jamaica," Dr Chang said.

"In this climate of economic hardships and fiscal restraint, it should be clear to the Government that it must lead by example and display some sense of prudence in its spend on discretionary matters such as travel. The number of trips and the size of the delegations led by the prime minister are excessive for a country in our economic situation, and her attempts at justifications have been weak and are offensive to the tax-paying public," he added.

He argued that instead of carefully considering recommendations made by the Opposition, such as the implementation of stricter measures to rationalise overseas travel, Government members engaged in what appeared to have been an orchestrated attempt to create distractions and divert attention from the matter in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

"The Government's conduct in Parliament yesterday warrants firm condemnation as it simply underscores the arrogance and contempt with which the Simpson Miller-led Administration have treated matters regarding accountability and transparency," Dr Chang stated.

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