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Corporate donations a 'glaring weakness' in Petrojam matter, says Holness

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday pointed out that the issue of donations and corporate social responsibility (CSR) was a “glaring weakness” in the Petrojam matter and “could be an area of systemic weakness”.

As such, Cabinet has requested that the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service develop a policy concerning CSR, inclusive of donations and sponsorship, Holness said while making his address in the House of Representatives.

He said the policy guidelines for CSR do call for the drafting of specific regulations and guidelines to create a more robust framework and that the House would recall that Principle 20 of the Corporate Governance Framework for Public Bodies provided for the development of a policy concerning CSR.

Holness informed that this has not yet been done and Cabinet has since given direction to the Finance Minister as to the details of those guidelines.

“The Ministry of Finance must establish a ceiling for donations under which the Board approves. The Ministry must establish the number of times a single applicant may benefit. So, if you have a ceiling, you could still breach the ceiling by applicants coming over and over again. We have to set a limit to the number of times applicants can benefit within a budget cycle,” Holness said.

The Finance Ministry is also being required to establish a uniform application and approval process, which includes requirements for disclosure of connected party relations.

“If the entity wishes to make donations above the ceiling, then such donations should be channelled to a grant-making agency of the Government whose mandate supports the evaluation, approval, monitoring and securing value for purpose from the funds granted,” Mr. Holness said.

“An entity, in keeping with its social responsibility mandate that would like to assist with major works to a basic school, would now be required to pass those funds to an agency like the National Education Trust (NET) or the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund, or the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), in keeping with the area of focus of that particular granting agency,” he added.

The prime minister said he believes this will stream public bodies' donations, secure value for public funds, and ensure that government entities are focused on their core mandate.

“All self-financing agencies must specifically include their donations and CSR programme in the draft budget estimates prepared for submission to the Ministry of Finance and eventual approval by Parliament,” he pointed out.

Holness added that it was also decided that entities funded from the Consolidated Fund will no longer be allowed to allocate budget for CSR and donations, except for matters dealings with human resource and staff welfare.

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