Holness issues strong warning to Cabinet membersTuesday, September 08, 2020
BY KIMONE FRANCIS
PRIME Minister Andrew Holness yesterday laid down the ground rules for members of his Cabinet, warning that ministers who run afoul of the law while executing their duties will find themselves in hot water.
Holness, who himself was sworn in last evening following his party's historic win at the polls last Thursday, earning him a second-consecutive term in office, was addressing the audience at King's House in St Andrew, where four of his ministers were also sworn into office.
The group comprised Drs Horace Chang, Christopher Tufton and Nigel Clarke, who will retain the national security, health and wellness, and finance and the public service portfolios, respectively, and Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, who will continue as minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade.
The four were sworn in as a matter of priority, Holness said, as the country continues to battle the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“They (ministers) must exercise good judgement. Oftentimes, the drive to get things done comes at a trade-off with judgement. We can have no such trade-off in this Administration, which is why we stress competence,” the prime minister said.
“The ministers must know their subject areas. They must know the legal environment in which they are operating. They must dedicate themselves to getting results; that is the drive. They must keep the public onboard. They must be good advocates and good communicators, but above all else, they must exercise good judgement,” he added.
The warning mirrors his 2016 message to then appointed Cabinet ministers, in which he insisted that he would apply a zero-tolerance approach to corruption among members of his Administration.
“I should not have the need to remind ministers that they must at all times conduct the affairs of the country with the highest level of integrity, but it is important that I repeat it. Corruption will not be tolerated in this Government,” Holness said then.
Since that time, the Government has been bedevilled by varying allegations, with Dr Andrew Wheatley tendering his resignation as minister of science and technology in 2018 over reports of nepotism at the State-owned oil refinery Petrojam, as well as controversy surrounding National Energy Solutions and the Universal Service Fund — two State agencies under his portfolio.
A year later, in 2019, Minister of Education, Youth and Information Ruel Reid resigned over allegations of corruption, fraud and misappropriation of public funds at the Ministry of Education and Caribbean Maritime University.
He was subsequently arrested and charged with breaches of the Corruption Prevention Act, conspiracy to defraud, misconduct in a public office at common law, and breaches of the Proceeds of Crime Act, and is awaiting trial.
Yesterday, Holness said if ministers exercise good judgement across the board, their actions would reflect a Government with the highest integrity, dignity and efficiency.
“The task ahead is not going to be an easy one, and I'm well aware of this. A part of my job will be to do a constant assessment and evaluation of the performance of the team. I will have to play more of the role of coach rather than player, to make sure that any strategic gaps, any tactical shortcomings, that those are immediately corrected and that when we are taking the long view we are actually looking in the right direction,” said Holness.
“In that regard, I have to ensure that I have a team that is competent, I have a team that has the drive and energy, a team that exercises good judgement, and a team that understands their role and are great advocates for the mission of the Government. In this regard, I'm confident that I have enough personnel who fit the criteria,” he stated.
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