Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cartoon & Cash Cow

We have been told that the budget allocation for the Dudus/Manatt COE is approximately J$40million. We have also been informed that the remuneration package for the Chairman is approximately J$30,000.00 per hour.

We have not been told if the hourly rate is confined to the public sittings; or if it applicable to consultations between Commissioners; or to deliberations in compiling the final report. Neither have we been informed of the remuneration packages of the other Commissioners, the Secretary, Counsel to the Commission or his assistants.

In the interest of transparency, the Commission should make public the various remuneration packages and the presumptions underlying the $40 million budget. From the current proceedings, it is fair to infer that there is likely to be significant cost overruns, especially in light of the hourly rate component.

Clovis' cartoon in the Observer, Tuesday February 15, 2011 captures in vivid colours the display of legal manoeuverings, that have characterized the hearings to date. The talents on display could amount to some 7 QC's with junior lawyers in supporting roles.

Queen's Counsels do not come cheap; neither do those of long standing who do not have that colonial appellation. Some have attended every sitting - seemingly oblivious to the fact that the witness in attendance will not touch and concern their client's interest.

The media coverage, especially live feeds supplied by JIS to various media outlets, makes that an invaluable marketing tool. The public may be excused from the view that if you are not at the Commission, then you "nah sey nutten" as an attorney.

Indeed, so invaluable is the exposure that attorneys without any brief have sought to occupy strategic seats behind the main actors. Aware that the camera is focused in their direction, they adjust their heads periodically to ensure that "you see me now".

Well that invaluable exposure is provided free of cost to those attorneys not taking part in the proceedings. However there is one troubling concern:

Who is paying the fees of the attorneys appearing before the Commission?

One would have thought that individuals who have sought to obtain the services of individual attorneys would have had to bear such cost,. as opposed to complete ministries or departments which are represented by one set of attorneys. For example: note is made of the absence of any attorney representing the Ministry of Justice. Yet there are at least two representing the Minister/AG, two representing the SG and two representing the Deputy SG.

We must therefore ask:

  • Are the taxpayers of Jamaica bearing the cost of legal representation for the thre members of the Ministry of Justice? If yes, then what are the details of such billings and how were the legal representations procured?
  • Are there situations outside that in the Ministry of Justice (say Ministry of National Security) where a similar arrangement - private legal firms at taxpayers expense - has been made? If yes, then can the public be informed as to the manner in which these services were procured and the cost?
We have been entertained but the cost of such entertainment might engender an opposite response. There is a Jamaican saying: "wha sweet nanny goat a go run him belly".

Are we destined for a national outbreak of diarrhoea?

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