Saturday 24 August, 2019

Government places $40,000 monthly cap on ministerial phone bills

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (centre) with Cabinet members at a meeting recently.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (centre) with Cabinet members at a meeting recently.

The Government has announced a $40,000 monthly cap on cellular phone bills relative to all ministers, both at the Cabinet and junior minister levels.

Information Minister, Senator Ruel Reid, announced the new policy at the post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House on Wednesday morning.

Reid said the cap was relative to all the phone-related activities of each minister in respect of the ministry to which he or she is assigned.

The question of a cap on the bills of Government ministers came to the fore early last month when it was revealed that Finance Minister Audley Shaw had racked up a cell phone bill amounting to $8.34 million for the March 2016 to February 2017 period, including a whopping bill of over $4.2 million for October 2016.

Shaw has since reportedly paid over $2 million of the October amount, which he attributed to uncontrolled data charges and extensive private use of the phone while travelling overseas, including when there was a major health challenge in his family.

He also reportedly got a $1 million discount on the bill.

State Minister for Finance, Fayval Williams, had an accumulated cell phone bill of over $800,000 for the one-year period, which was a little below the one-year amount for which former State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Arnaldo Brown, was roasted some years ago.

This was within the context that other ministers, such as Dr Horace Chang, Rudyard Spencer and Derrick Smith, had relatively low or very low ministerial phone bills over the March 2016 to February 2017 period.

Notably, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has said it is not responsible for Prime Minister Andrew Holness' cell phone bills, apparently at the original direction of the PM, and National Security Minister, Robert Montague, is said to use his private phones only, and pays the bills.


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