Jamaica Observer / THE People’s National Party (PNP) says a public admission by the board chairman of Universal Service Fund (USF) that its chief executive officer (CEO), Camille Buchanan, employed her daughter at the agency is a blatant display of nepotism and a matter that should be probed further. The revelation came to light on the weekend in a media report.

The Opposition said the CEO — a former Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) candidate for St Catherine East Central — hired her daughter in a position at USF without due regard for the standard procedure for employment in the Government service.

PNP general secretary and Opposition spokesman on science and technology Julian Robinson, in a statement yesterday, said the board Chairman Robert Lawrence should state how many other individuals have been hired at the agency over the last two years without the positions being advertised, as is required by the rules of the Services Commission. Robinson also wants to know what other procedural breaches have been committed in the process.

According to the report, Lawrence admitted that Buchanan’s daughter — who had been employed and received a salary of $80,000 per month — did not meet the qualification for the position.

According to Jamaica Observer sources, the employee only attained three Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects.

Lawrence also disclosed that another long-standing employee had her daughter employed to the fund since November 2017.

“With clear evidence of corruption, nepotism, cronyism, systematic breaches, and procedural lapses in agencies under the former Ministry of Energy, Science, and Technology, the leadership at the USF must be forthright in answering questions surrounding its operations,” the PNP said yesterday.

Lawrence admitted that although Buchanan had sought advice and had been given permission, it was a poor judgement call to hire her daughter, who along with the other employee resigned in May.

The Opposition is also insisting that the USF board chairman should clarify the process used to hire Buchanan in the current position of CEO, and state whether other individuals were given equal opportunity during the process of filling the position.

“Albeit late, but still for the sake of probity, the chairman should make public how many applications were received and shortlisted before a final decision was made to engage Ms Buchanan as the agency’s CEO,” Robinson said.

The Opposition spokesman said that in light of the modernisation exercise being undertaken by the Government to rationalise the workforce, the chairman should also produce the written approval from the Ministry of Finance authorising the expansion of personnel at USF.

A team from the USF is expected to attend tomorrow’s sitting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee of Parliament to answer questions about the agency’s operations.

The USF was set up in 2005 as the Universal Access Company Limited, based on a ministerial order which mandated that all domestic telecommunications providers must collect a universal service levy on all in-bound telephone calls. The levy is imposed on international calls terminating on local networks. The funds from the levy are used to assist the USF in carrying out its mandate to provide universal access to information and communication tools to all Jamaicans.

The Opposition, over the past few months, has been alleging that there is widespread corruption, including instances of blatant nepotism, at key government agencies such as Petrojam. The controversy surrounding the State-owned oil refinery has, in recent weeks, led to the resignation of the board and other key personnel, including General Manager Floyd Grindley.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has also subsumed the energy portfolio of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Energy into his office, leaving Dr Andrew Wheatley in charge of the other two portfolios.

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