Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tivoli COE; Justifying $335m Budget

The Minister of Justice, Senator Mark Golding has sought to justify the multi- million dollar budget provided for the Tivoli Commission of Enquiry.We renew our call for the Ministry of Finance and/or the Ministry of Justice to publish the full details of the budget for this enquiry,

We intend to summarise some of the arguments advanced and to question the rationale informing those considerations:

  • The GOJ was intent on getting Commissioners and legal counsel of the highest integrity, professional competence and experience.  That  came at considerable costs, even after some amount of negotiation.
This presumes that they are no Jamaicans being held in such high regard with the requisite professional competence and experience to chair the Commission. Consequently the GOJ had to look elsewhere to find a chairman who, apart from being suitably equipped, would not be perceived as being "tainted" by local partisan politics.

We disagree fundamentally with that approach. 

In our post : "Some Preliminary Concerns" we stated our objections to a foreigner, albeit a Bajan, being given the chair  because a) no Jamaican could have been selected for such a position in Barbados -- even if they could get beyond the airport; and b) there are numerous Jamaicans who are more than suited for such a position.
Even more importantly it speaks to the calibre and integrity of our judiciary, especially those who sit in our Court of Appeal.
Perhaps our decolonisation has not yet reached the stage that bestowed titles, especially a knighthood, have little or no relevance. ( Sir Paul would sound quite impressive, even Pope-like).

But what does that say about the other two commissioners  ? Are they appointed for their professional competencies or for some type of "balance" academic/gender?
Frankly, they all "eat a good food" for a total of three months work. Cabinet Ministers must be feeling jealous. I too wanted to be a Commissioner--- need such nutrition ( multi- millions as opposed to multi-vitamins!).

  • The total cost will outstrip that for the previous commissions of enquiry primarily due to the amount of witness to be called.  Both the Chairman and the Minister have acknowledged this fact. Moreover, this Tivoli COE is greater in scope and participation than any other.
Behind this reasoning is the failure of those crafting the Terms of Reference to consider the costs and purpose of having residents of Tivoli Gardens relive the trauma undergone and to be cross-examined as to the inconsistencies between the various statements they have given to those state agencies who were investigating the loss/damage claims.
Perhaps the experience of recounting the experience live and direct on television and such being re-broadcast numerous times will ensure hem a place in our political archives. That must be worth something.

Apart from the wide participation is the capacity of the Commission to deal with all the various aspects of the military incursion. We have argued that the COE as currently composed is ill- equipped to handle some critical issues, notably compensation .

  •  There is a specified cap as to the maximum amount each operative will be allowed; even though there exist different categories of remuneration depending on the type of work involved. So there is a different hourly rate for preparatory work, another actual hearings, post hearing, report writing etc.
The stated objective is to state the maximum payable under the specific contractual arrangements. It is the intent that if they exceed the stated hours, they cannot claim sums in excess of the stated cap.In so doing the maximum costs would have been fixed.

We would wish to question the effectiveness of such a cap.

The contract is constructed based on the stated duration of a total of 3-months ( some 64 days), Now if the Commission exceeds that period , are they not entitled o be remunerated? Is the GOJ expecting all parties so contracted to "hug up" the charges for the extra work? Do the contractual arrangements come to an end at midnight of day 64?

  • The money allocated to the Tivoli COE is not necessarily available to be used in other national projects which are currently suffering from financial constraints, It has been pointed out that international bodies have allocated grants, ostensibly to facilitate the victims in bringing about "closure" and not feeling that this is a waste of time. (The UNDP has assisted with the forensics and has made a grant of $100,000 US)
The Minister needs to itemize the amount of specific grants that have been forthcoming and state exactly how much of our taxpayers' money is being allocated to the $335 million exercise.
But even if the GOJ is in receipt of specific grants, there is a Jamaican component. Could this portion be allocated to more pressing national needs?

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