Thursday 26 November, 2020

BACK TO SCHOOL: Unqualified JUTC managers ordered into classes

All the unqualified senior management personnel who are employed to the state-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) must commence enrolment in a programme in the area of their work/specialisation at a recognised tertiary institution no later than September 2020.

This was one of the actions mandated by the Russell Hadeed-chaired board of the JUTC during a meeting Thursday morning to discuss the findings of a performance audit into the operations of the cash-strapped bus company.

The audit covered the period 2014 to 2019, and as such, straddled administrations of both the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP).

Among the damning findings of Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis and her team was that at least six of the 21 senior managers at the JUTC do not meet the minimum qualifications for the positions they hold.  

The JUTC, in a statement following the meeting, said if there is no progress on the part of the employees to get qualified beginning in September, “the board will sanction such employees”.

But it would appear that some of the six could face difficulty matriculating to a tertiary-level institution, based on the level of qualification they have on file at the JUTC, or the lack thereof. Typically, admission to a university or teachers’ college requires a minimum of five CSEC subjects, which must include passes in English language and mathematics, and in the case of some of the managers, no such basic qualifications seem to exist.  

Shockingly, the audit report found that the JUTC’s managing director has nothing in the way of qualification other than a reported high school diploma for a position that requires a post-graduate degree and 10 years’ experience at the senior management level.

Despite that situation, the managing director is into his second stint in the position.

The shambolic state of affairs at the JUTC, as uncovered by the audit, reveals a board that appears to be dysfunctional, the unapproved hiring of staff above the capacity of the entity, and nearly three quarters of a billion dollars ($728 million) in overtime payments, despite the company having excess staff.

Meanwhile, the bus company’s board said it notes the public interest generated from the publishing of the findings of the report into its operations. At the same time it has taken issue with aspects of the report, and as such, has called for the entire report to be retracted.

“While we appreciate the incisive analysis of the issues raised by the auditor general, the board and management wish to make it clear that there are some areas of the report which require further elaboration for accuracy.

“In relation to the breaches identified, we acknowledge that all is not well at the company, and we will implement several of the recommendations made by the auditor general, not withstanding some of the inaccuracies contained in the report,” the statement said.

The JUTC also acknowledged that its unapproved staff capacity racked up $1.115 billion in accumulated costs, but stated that the problem is a longstanding one dating back to 2006.

It said it has written to the Ministry of Finance on several occasions to have the posts established.

The JUTC said the matter was brought to its attention by the Ministry of Finance during the period November 2014 to January 2015.

“Since then the company has been seeking the assistance of the Ministry of Finance for the establishment of posts.  The exercise commenced in January 2015, but was halted in August 2016 due to a change in administration.  A post audit exercise was done in July 2019, and we await the results of same. We have since reduced our staff complement from 2,252 in May 2016, to 1,956 as at July 2020,” said the statement.

​It described the matter of exceeding its overtime budget by $728 million as a “serious issue requiring urgent action”. As such, it said the board has taken a number of decisions following Thursday’s meeting with senior managers. These include:

* Any expenditure outside of budget must be taken to the Finance Committee for discussion/approval.

* All overtime must be sent to the HR Committee, then to Finance, along with management’s justification.

* In May the company approved and implemented an overtime policy, which is to be applied going forward.

Additionally, the JUTC indicated that since March 2020, overtime payments were reduced from $25.83 million to $11.34 million as at June 2020.

In the meantime, the company has taken issue with how the auditor general reported on expenditure for spare parts for buses, arguing that information that was requested and submitted, was not captured in the report.

“Consequently, the board has written to the auditor general to retract the report because it has factual and inaccurate information. We are not saying all the report is wrong, but it failed to mention several measures and pieces of information (that were) requested and provided”.

The following are among the senior managers who will have to move to significantly improve their qualification levels as of September, if they are to avoid sanction.

1.    Managing Director

Minimum education requirement according to job description include:

·       Post graduate degree in management/industrial engineering or equivalent qualifications from a recognised tertiary institution.

·       Qualification in transport management would be an asset.

·       * The selected candidate would be responsible for the general management of an enterprise with revenue of over $3 billion.

·       Ten years’ post qualification experience at the senior management level.

Actual qualification - High school diploma. Owner and manager of a private auto service centre. Previously served as managing director from 2009-2012.

2. Deputy managing director, engineering and technical services

Minimum education requirement:

·       Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or equivalent qualification from recognised institution.

·       Five years’ experience as a senior manager directing the mechanical engineering maintenance programme of a large fleet of heavy equipment.

Actual qualification - None seen. Acceptance to the University of Technology for Diploma in Engineering programme; no evidence of completion. Worked at JUTC in various management positions, the last of which was assistant vice president 2009-2012, when services were terminated. Owner of a motor vehicle transportation and service business.

3. Deputy managing director, human resource and administration

Minimum education requirement:

Post-graduate diploma in human resource.

10 years’ experience in personnel and employee relations, five of which should be at the senior management level.

Actual qualification - Certificate; introduction to personnel management, IMP, 2001; certificate: leadership motivation and organisational change, and several professional development certificates. Employed since 2002, starting as recruitment officer.

4. Security Manager

Minimum education requirement:

First degree in management studies or equivalent qualification.

At least five years’ military/police/security training.

Actual qualification - Sixth standard. Retired assistant senior police officer.

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