Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tivoli COE- Food @ Snoring Commission

The cost of any COE  is always of concern and especially so when there are competing demands for ever scarce resources. The debate surrounds getting value for money and the provision of jobs for the favoured few.

Lawyers play a critical role in such enquiries. Where counsel in retained by private interests it is of no public concern. However, when the government selects counsel and pays for such services out of the public purse, then it is a matter for public scrutiny.

Of course there is also the inferences to be drawn when counsel retained by the government displays political allegiance favourable to the governing political party, and in some instances play supportive roles during elections -- even contesting seats.

The Snoring Commission was no different and the scrutiny was heightened by the withdrawal of the JLP and its associates from the proceedings. Consequently the findings are conditioned by the situation of " uncontradicted evidence" being presented and considered.

The Observer, Wednesday, July 31, 2002 reported that the West Kingston COE cost a "whopping $44.6 million".

Given the current controversy surrounding the naming of Velma Hylton Q.C. as a Commissioner in the announce Tivoli COE, it is of significance the amount she garnered and the comparison of the remuneration of other central figures, notably the Chairman and the other  commissioners.

The Commission Counsel:

The Observer Reporter : "The largest payment, $4.79 million, to an individual was paid to Velma Hylton, counsel to the commission."

The Other Commissioners:

"Fellow commissioner, Dr Hyacinthe Ellis, a sociologist, received a total of over $3 million, while Rev Garnett Brown, the third commissioner, was paid total emoluments of approximately $2 million. Total payment on account of the three commissioners was $6.27 million."


The Chairman was a special case:

"During the period of the inquiry the chairman continued to receive his salary from the Canadian Government," reported Patterson. "He was, however, eligible for transportation, reasonable travel and living expenses from the Government of Jamaica."
This amounted to a total cost of $1.23 million and was paid over to the Canadian High Commission, the prime minister said."

The Rest of the Menu:

Set out below are the fees paid by Government to various lawyers who appeared before the commission on behalf of Government departments/agencies:

Janet Nosworthy (assistant to Hylton)............................$2.67m

Eugene Harris (assistant to Hylton)................................$2.96m

Ian Ramsay (Jamaica Constabulary Force).....................$4.47m

Jacqueline Samuels-Brown (JCF)...................................$3.03m

Leslie Harper (JCF).........................................................$2.88m

Norma Linton (Jamaica Defence Force).........................$4.79m

Bert Samuels (JDF).........................................................$3.06m

Errol Gentles (JDF).........................................................$2.76m

The Public Defender's Office spent $600,000 to retain counsel to represent victims of the police operation on July 7, 2001 which resulted in the deaths of 25 civilians, one soldier and one policeman."

Some Remarks

We have no clue as to the amount of hours the Commission Counsel devoted to carrying out the work of the COE .  Neither do we have any idea of how that remuneration compares to that of fellow commission  counsel in other jurisdictions .

We would like to be informed if it is usual for  Commission Counsel to be paid more than a sitting commissioner; and if that is indeed the case, more than twice the remuneration of a sitting commissioner. Hylton received more than Ellis or Brown. On the basis of remuneration alone, Hylton was supreme.

We are also perplexed about the need and cost for two assistants to Hylton- each paid more than Commissioner Rev Garnett Brown. The total cost of the Commission Counsel and her assistants was a " staggering" $10.42 million. Admittedly the Snoring Commission menu  had very generous servings!

There is an irresistible urge to conclude that based on the compensation package borne by the GOJ the panel of commissioners " nah sey nutten". Perhaps that is the real reason for the nap. However such does not account for the Chairman's snoring during the sitting.

Such, without more, would attest to the centrality of Hylton to the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry. Jamaicans would say that " she eat a good food". Having done so, then the GOJ can let someone else "eat a food".

No comments: