Committee told why contract of former HEART/NSTA Trust boss not renewed
Permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Audrey Sewell

THE employment contract of Dr Janet Dyer, former head of the HEART/NSTA Trust, which has been at the centre of controversy in recent months, was not renewed after she admitted to authorising salaries in April 2020 for senior management of the institution above what was approved by the finance ministry.

The matter came to light on Wednesday at a meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) when permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Audrey Sewell disclosed that this was part of the reason the former managing director's contract had not been renewed. She said publicising the action at the time it was taken would not have been appropriate.

“Somebody was held accountable, [but] when you part ways with employees, you don't go public to give reasons to say this is why the board took this decision. It's just not professional; it's unethical,” she stated.

The finance ministry had approved job classifications and salary scales for the top-tier employees of HEART following the merger of four entities which now form the training agency, but the former head did not adhere to those instructions, according to the explanation given by the permanent secretary.

Outlining details at the meeting of the PAAC with representatives of the OPM, HEART Trust, and the education ministry, Sewell said months after the finance ministry issued instructions for staff reclassification, then chairman Edward Gabbidon informed her that HEART had not implemented the approved scale, and that increases had been applied in some instances.

“I brought it to the attention of the minister, who is the prime minister. Initially the leadership did not take responsibility, so he convened a meeting, because we considered it very serious for an agency to go off on its own to increase salary; that's a no-no,” Sewell said.

She advised that in the meeting with several senior officers of the institutionthe former managing director admitted that she had authorised the increases.

“She said in the meeting that I take responsibility, I authorised it. The prime minister asked the board chairman to deal with it because he considered it a major breach,” the permanent secretary told the committee.

The finance ministry appears to have later ratified the move, after HEART submitted justification for the implementation of the new pay structure.

In a letter dated July 14, 2021, the ministry said, based on the circumstances, and to “prevent any negative impact on the staff at the trust and in an effort to maintain industrial harmony”, it would offer no objection to the salaries implemented from April 1, 2020.

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

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