Sun | Nov 18, 2018

Opposition calls for probe into USF amid resignation of CEO

Published:Monday | August 20, 2018 | 2:06 PM
Julian Robinson, opposition spokesman on science and technology - File photo

The Opposition wants the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Science and Technology to call in the Auditor General and the Integrity Commission to conduct a probe into the operations of the Universal Service Fund (USF).

It argues that issues of cronyism, nepotism, and mal-administration have characterised activities at the agency.

The opposition further contends that the resignation of the USF's Chief Executive Officer Camille Buchanan does not bring closure to these issues.

READ: Buchanan Bows Out

“With clear evidence of corruption, nepotism, cronyism, systematic breaches and procedural lapses... [we] call for the leadership at the USF to be forthright in answering questions surrounding its operations,” said Julian Robinson, opposition spokesman on science and technology, in a statement today.

“The resignation of Ms Buchanan has accelerated the necessity for the Auditor General and the Integrity Commission to conduct a full-scale investigation of the operations of the USF,” Robinson added.

FULL STATEMENT

The Opposition Shadow Minister of Science and Technology, Mr Julian Robinson, M.P., says the resignation of Ms Camille Buchanan as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Universal Service Fund (USF) does not bring closure to the issues of cronyism, nepotism and mal-administration that have characterised activities at the agency, since the installation of Ms Buchanan and that there should be a full investigation of the entity. 
With clear evidence of corruption, nepotism, cronyism, systematic breaches and procedural lapses, the Shadow Minister said, he is reiterating his call on the leadership at the USF to be forthright in answering questions surrounding its operations. 


Mr Robinson also said that the resignation of Ms Buchanan has accelerated the necessity for the Auditor General and the Integrity Commission to conduct a full-scale investigation of the operations of the USF. 
“I am, therefore, urging the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry to invite the Auditor General and the Integrity Commission to conduct a full probe of USF.”

He said the resignation of Ms Buchanan has opened the door to many questions regarding the role of key officials in the conduct of the agency’s business and those questions can only be answered satisfactorily by an audit and detailed investigation.  

Mr Julian Robinson said, for example, that the chairman of the USF Board, Mr Robert Lawrence has not yet answered questions posed to him in a July media release by the People’s National Party(PNP) seeking to ascertain how many other persons have been hired at the agency over the last two (2) years, in what capacity without the positions being advertised as required by the rules of the Services Commission and whether permission was granted by, either the parent ministry or the Services Commission, to fill such positions. 

A media release from USF on 16th July, under the signature of the chairman, appears to suggest that there were other breaches, but according to him, they were excusable under the agency’s policy for temporary employment. However, Mr Robinson said there is no such accommodation for the blatant hiring of relatives in the way they were effected at the USF, which operates under the Government's HR principles. 

The PNP also said that accountability or the lack thereof and the deterioration in the administrative environment at the agency cannot lie solely with Ms Buchanan. The Board of Directors, led by Mr Lawrence, is equally responsible; especially because the board chairman played an active role in the day-to-day operations of the organization.  

Mr Robinson said it is clear to him that the major decisions taken by the organization were done with the knowledge and authority of the board and the chairman.

From the inception of the USF in 2006, telecoms companies, namely FLOW and Digicel have always had representatives on the Board of Directors.

However, when the new board was named, these representatives were excluded without reason.  Can the Chairman provide the rationale behind their exclusion?

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