The failed campaign by Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith for the post of Commonwealth Secretary General, has cost taxpayers a significant $18.2 million.
This was revealed in a statement on Sunday by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
According to the OPM, the amount covered air and ground transportation, COVID-19 tests, meals and accommodation, public relations/communications support activities for staging of events such as the launch and engagements with delegations as well as IT support, printing of documents, photography, food and beverages.
This is in addition to roughly $25 million that was spent by the government on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in Kigali, Rwanda in June that was attended by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his wife Juliet and a Jamaican delegation thus bringing the total spend to approximately $43 million.
OPM said the cost of the summit was absorbed by three participating ministries with the OPM being responsible for $12.8 million of the amount. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade covered $7.7 million and the Ministry of Tourism $5.1 million.
The statement confirmed that FINN Partners provided public relations, media relations and thought leadership services for Jamaica’s candidature for the post of Commonwealth Secretary General.
“The government of Jamaica was not a party to this arrangement which was secured by corporate Jamaica,” it said.
While the parliamentary Opposition had tabled questions in the Parliament for the prime minister to answer several weeks ago, OPM said it was fulfilling its “public commitment to transparency and accountability” in providing the information today.
It said Johnson Smith’s campaign was efficiently conducted and utilised the existing channels and resources, including already established travel plans and engagements.
“This significantly minimised additional and direct expenditure from the Budget for the campaign,” it stated.
Noting that Johnson Smith’s candidature was announced in April and launched that same month in London, the OPM said there was some assistance for this event from corporate Jamaica.
“The Minister made strategic use of the opportunities offered by impending official engagements, to carry out lobbying activities. In that regard, in her capacity as Foreign Minister, Minister Johnson Smith attended meetings of the Economic and Social Council (United Nations, New York, April 2022); the CARICOM Agri-Investment Forum & Expo (Guyana, May 2022); the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (United Nations, Geneva, June 2022) and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Rwanda, June 2022)”.
Additionally, Johnson Smith met with Heads of Government and counterpart Ministers on the margins of these programmed activities, to conduct the work of the Jamaican delegation, and simultaneously, to promote the candidature.
“This is standard operation in international organisations, particularly by small states like Jamaica, which are conscious of the need to capitalise on these avenues to conduct international relations, in order to minimise costs,” said the OPM.
It disclosed that the foreign affairs minister’s travel schedule took her to seven African countries in ten days as she lobbied for their support.
In the end, Johnson Smith was narrowly defeated by the incumbent, the Dominica-born Baroness Patricia Scotland.
OPM said the government ran a clean, transparent, principled campaign that met the standards of accountability.