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USF refutes claims of 'political cleansing'

Thursday, July 19, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Universal Service Fund (USF) has sought to debunk assertions that the former chief executive officer (CEO) of the organisation, Dr Hugh Cross, was fired from the entity as a part of a "political cleansing."

Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) yesterday raised concerns over what it considered a sudden change of leadership over a short period of time at State entities, including USF, which were under former Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley.

The PAAC chairman Wykeham McNeill argued that change in leadership at the entities came the same year that the Jamaica Labour Party took over the Government.

It was pointed out that the now CEO of USF, Camille Buchanan, joined the company in 2016, taking over from Cross.

Cross reportedly challenged his dismissal but later withdrew his claim following a conciliatory meeting at the Ministry of Labour.

However, the USF in a release today, said the company, under its current board, has never participated in the acts asserted by the PAAC.

“The board of the fund ended the relationship with Dr Cross after it was discovered that he had an unlawful contractual arrangement with the entity,” the USF said in its statement.

The USF further provided what it said was a timeline leading up to the dismissal of Cross.

CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS

1. January 31, 2016 - General Elections were announced, to be held February 25, 2016

2. February 4, 2016 - Ministry of Finance and Planning issued circular Re: Conduct of Directors of Boards of Public Bodies during Transition Periods. The circular, among other things, advised boards that no new appointment to executive position should be made until a new board is appointed.

3. February 11, 2016 -- Meeting of the Board of Director of USF took place with Chairman Wellesley Blair and CEO Hugh Cross, in attendance. At the meeting, the February 4th circular was presented to the board and Dr Cross.

4. On February 25, 2016 -- The Jamaica Labour Party won the elections and was set to form the new administration

5. March 3, 2016 -- Andrew Holness sworn in as Prime Minister of Jamaica

6. March 7, 2016 -- New Cabinet sworn in at Jamaica House, with Dr Andrew Wheatley being named as the new Minister of Science Energy and Technology. The USF falls directly under this ministry.

7. April 1 2016 -- Cabinet of Jamaica approved the appointment of members to the board of the USF

8. April 7, 2016 -- Dr Cross signed a new contract of employment which was dated April 7, 2016. NB. Dr Cross' existing contract had not expired.

9. April 8, 2016 -- Dr Cross, at 8:20 am emailed all senior managers, advising them that a new board had been appointed. On the same day, Dr Wellesley Blair signed the contract of employment of Dr Cross. No previous board minutes show that the board ever discussed the renewal of Dr Cross' contract. Further, after advising the staff of the change of directorship, Dr Cross signed the Official Secret Act Declaration which forms part of his contract, on April 8, 2016.

10. At the time of signing, Dr Blair was no longer the chairman of the board, thus, he did not have the authority to sign a contract of employment for anyone on behalf of the USF.

11. On July 29, 2016 -- two directors requested a special meeting of the board to discuss matters of importance.



12. August 5, 2016 -- the new board convened a meeting and discussed the 'contract' of Dr Cross. At that meeting, the board took the decision to separate from Dr Cross.

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