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Thwaites says advisor fills role of junior minister

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, September 26, 2012    

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EDUCATION Minister Ronald Thwaites says that one of the reasons for hiring management consultant Dr Franklin Johnston as senior advisor, at a cost of $5 million per annum, was to carry out activities in the absence of a junior minister.

Answering questions from Opposition spokesperson on education, Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, in the House of Representatives yesterday, Thwaites said that among Johnston's assignments were to chair meetings with the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) and Association of Principals and Vice-Principals.

Other duties included a review and verification of school board appointments before submission to the minister; attendance and participation in functions and activities, as directed by the minister; and administrative duties required by the minister.

Johnston, as the senior advisor with responsibility for modernisation and transformation, would also advise the minister on educational policy and "operational-related matters; ensuring that the system is efficiently and effectively coordinated", Thwaites said.

Asked by Opposition Leader Andrew Holness whether Dr Johnston's salary was "over and above" the Ministry of Finance and Planning's salary scale, Thwaites said he did not know. However, he insisted that whatever salary was implemented was approved by the ministry.

Thwaites also informed the House that Johnston had been assigned a Suzuki Grand Vitara in January, but that the vehicle has now been withdrawn.

Dr Johnston was one of three senior advisors employed by Thwaites since taking office in January. The others were Verica Bennett, who is being paid $3.6 million per annum, plus a motor vehicle allowance of $904,000, to advise on "critical policy matters and co-ordinate and oversee all office related activities; and Radley Reid, who is being paid a salary of $2.8 million per annum, plus a motor vehicle allowance of $904,000 per annum, to advise on curriculum, teaching and learning.

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