PAAC turns heat on USF board for employment of CEO

Thursday, November 15, 2018

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THE Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament says the Universal Service Fund (USF) board must explain its reasons for overlooking 24 highly qualified candidates for the position of chief executive officer in 2016, and shortlisting at least one applicant with less qualifications.

Former CEO Camille Buchanan had beat out the three candidates who were shortlisted along with herself for the post, but resigned in August this year in the face of mounting questions about employment practices after it was revealed that she hired her daughter to a post in the agency.

At yesterday's meeting of the PAAC, Chairman Dr Wykeham McNeill said the committee could call for the resignation of the board if it does not receive satisfactory answers about the selection process.

“... The board would have gone through these [applications] as the advertisement was for someone with a master's degree and/or equivalent qualifications and experience. This is the company that is in charge of building out our information technology infrastructure across the island; how does this board select somebody for shortlisting but they select somebody who has no master's, no bachelor's degree [but] a certificate, experience as a councillor in the Spanish Town Municipal Corporation and four years at Caymanas Track Limited. How do you shortlist that over all of this?” McNeill said.

According to a list of the qualifications of the 24 non-shortlisted candidates, which was provided by the USF to the committee, some of the applicants included a certified forensic consultant, and certified fraud examiner, with a Master of Business Administration degree; a candidate with a bachelor's degree in construction and engineering management; an applicant with an executive MBA in general management; and another with a doctor of management in organisational leadership and information technology.

Following an intervention of Government member Leslie Campbell, who cautioned that it was not within the committee's remit to call for the resignation of boards, it was decided that the USF should be asked to submit a report outlining the selection process it had undertaken for the position of CEO. Based on the response provided by the board, the committee said it would make recommendations to Parliament.

Board Chairman Robert Lawrence has previously dismissed claims of nepotism in relation to the employment process at the agency, insisting that the USF adheres to a transparent process in filling all permanent positions.

The former CEO has defended her appointment in the media, as well as before the PAAC after she was invited to appear before the committee in September, following her resignation. In a Jamaica Observer interview Buchanan chastised the PAAC for focusing on her qualifications instead of performance during her two years at the USF.

— Alphea Saunders

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