Sewell Defends Stewardship of Permanent Secretaries amid PAAC Criticism


Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Audrey Sewell, gave a strident defense of the role of Permanent Secretaries in the oversight of public bodies that fall under the purview of their respective ministries.

This, after she came under attack from members of the PAAC due to systemic failures at several agencies under the Science, Energy and Technology portfolios now under the ambit of the Office of the Prime Minister.

Ms. Sewell says it’s unfair to expect Permanent Secretaries to be accountable for public agencies.

PAAC Member, Fitz Jackson, pointed out the failure of several agencies under the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology. He says it shows a clear lack of competence at the highest level.

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However, Ms. Sewell hit back at Mr. Jackson noting that statutory bodies do not report to permanent secretaries.

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A clearly frustrated Ms. Sewell says she doesn’t have the resources to oversee the actions of CEOs.

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She says time and time again she’s been called in to clean up messes in entities she has no authority over.

Ms. Sewell says this has to be addressed at the policy level.

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The PAAC says its clear something must be done to address the governance structure.

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The PAAC is raising concerns over the $35-million being spent annually on advertisement by the Universal Service Fund, USF, despite its shrinking revenues.

The figure was brought up this afternoon by Ms. Violet Badroe much to the shock of some members the PAAC.

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The Universal Service Fund, is an agency set up to increase access to the Internet across Jamaica. It’s funded through a tax charged on incoming calls from overseas.

Ms. Badroe noted that during the early years of the agency, it didn’t advertise but was advised by successive boards to better promote itself.

However, PAAC Member, Phillip Paulwell, noted that the USF’s revenue stream was shrinking due to increased use of Voice over IP services. He says the United States government in particular is concerned with the USF’s spending.

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Ms. Badroe conceded that the USF’s revenues have declined from $1.4-billion two years ago to just over $900-million now.

It’s also expected to further decrease to $750-million by the end of this year.

Mr. Paulwell says during his time at the USF his spending on advertisement was far lower at around $2-million. He says the current spend has to be reduced.

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