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Questions raised about Webber's chairmanship of NYS board

Friday, June 27, 2014    

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OPPOSITION Member of Parliament Olivia "Babsy" Grange has called on Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to pay urgent attention to developments within the National Youth Service (NYS).

"Information coming to me is very troubling, and it may be timely for you to ask for a forensic audit of the NYS. There are problems and there are more questions than answers," she told the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

"It appears that the same issues that plagued Maureen Webber at the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) are affecting her now at the NYS," said Grange, who is also the Opposition spokesperson on information, youth, culture and gender affairs.

She said that a SWOT analysis done at the NYS last month by Leachim Semaj highlighted some issues raised by the staff.

These issues, she said, included their fear of victimisation and the influence of politics in the day-to-day running of the service.

"Apparently people are being forced to resign left, right and centre," Grange said as she closed her sectoral debate presentation at Gordon House.

She said that "grievous allegations" have been levelled at Webber as the chairman of the NYS, in relation to her hiring practices and the relationship between Webber's company, Development Options, and the NYS.

She said that the Office of the Contractor General has already commenced investigations into the relationship between the NYS and Development Options, and whether the NYS has engaged or entered into other arrangements with the private firm.

The entire board of the HAJ, including Webber as its chairman, were forced to resign on March 11 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 after Managing Director Carl Bennett resigned having served only three months in the post. He was the third managing director to leave the job within eight months and his departure was the latest in a raft of resignations of senior managers since April 2013.

The workers and their union alleged that the resignations were the end result of a politically motivated house-cleaning led by Webber, aimed at removing staff members with whom she was not comfortable.

Webber, a former People's National Party deputy general secretary, was named chairman of both the HAJ and NYS boards in early 2012 after the current Administration came to power.

-- Balford Henry

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