PM orders audit after one minister racks up $8 million cell phone bill

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KINGSTON, Jamaica, Jul 12 2017 – Prime Minister Andrew Holness has ordered an audit of all cell phone bills of Cabinet Ministers.

Holness, who issued the order ahead of Tuesday’s sitting of Parliament, said the issue of communication costs and high cellular phone bills being incurred for roaming and data charges, had to be addressed.

This comes in the wake of a recent report that Finance Minister Audley Shaw had cell phone bills amounting to J$8.3 million.

Coming from the meeting, it was acknowledged that there was no standard, clear and consistent policy being applied across government regarding the treatment of communication expenses for Ministers and Ministers of State.

According to Holness, the situation is unacceptable and must be addressed immediately in order to confirm the accuracy of information in the public domain.

He has also directed the Ministry of Finance to review and report on the respective policies for the provision of communication services including cell phones, operating in the various Ministries.

The Prime Minister added that this will allow Cabinet to make a comprehensive decision on how communication services and expenses for Ministers are treated.

He also directed that cellular phone expenses be capped.

The Ministry of Finance has been tasked to advise the Prime Minister, within a week, on the appropriate amount for the cap to be paid by each ministry for the Minister’s cellular phone bills. Any amount exceeding the cap should be the responsibility of the respective Ministers unless otherwise approved by the Permanent Secretary.

During the meeting, the Cabinet members agreed that public concerns about the level of some bills are valid.

It was agreed that although most of the costs incurred would have been in pursuit of the Government’s business, the government ministers committed to reimburse the Government retroactively the difference between actual bill and the capped amount to be determined and imposed.

Meanwhile, Technology Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley has been mandated to enter into discussions with telecommunications providers to devise standard cell phone and data packages for Government Ministers.

The Prime Minister received the commitment of the Cabinet to ensure that the greatest care is exercised in the discharge of their duties and the use of public resource.

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