Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, yesterday (June 20) tabled in the House of Representatives job descriptions for Parliamentarians in the form of a Green Paper and for Ministers in the form of a White Paper.
“These will set out the strategic objective of the post, its purpose, reporting and accountability, the key deliverables and responsibility areas, performance standards, competencies, contacts, and the working conditions,” Prime Minister Holness said.
“In proposing a job description, we are not suggesting anything new or outside our laws and Constitution. However, few people have a full appreciation of what the appointment requires. It is hoped that this job description will help members of the public better appreciate and understand the roles and responsibilities of Ministers and Members of Parliament (MPs),” he added.
The Prime Minister was speaking during a statement to the Lower House.
Holness noted that good governance also means holding Parliamentarians and Ministers to the highest standard of conduct.
“We will prepare, discuss, agree, and implement Codes of Conduct for Parliamentarians and for Ministers. It has been more than 20 years since the country turned its attention to a formal declaration of the conduct of Ministers in Ministry Paper No. 19/2002,” he stated.
The Prime Minister said, in that paper, the country was invited to accept the United Kingdom Nolan Committee Report’s proposal of the seven principles of public life, being selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. Holness pointed out that those seven principles are as enduring now as when they were first presented.
“However, we contemplate that we need to develop further guidance to implement those principles better. Every Minister in the Cabinet is bound by this Code of Conduct.
JOINT SELECT COMMITTEE
The Principles of Public Life must apply to anyone in the public service or who works as a public officeholder. Most especially, these principles must also apply to our Members of Parliament,” he stated.
Holness indicated that the Parliament, through its Joint Select Committee, will be invited to note the approved job description for Ministers and further develop and refine the proposed job description for Members of Parliament.
“The Joint Select Committee will also consider certain working documents towards developing our own Code of Conduct,” the Prime Minister added.
Holness said this Code should set the standards for appropriate conduct and guide how these should be understood and interpreted.
“Most importantly, the Code of Conduct must hold the Houses of Parliament to enforce the conduct of their members. The development of the Code of Conduct is an important exercise in the agency and maturity of the Jamaican Parliament,” he stated.
“It cannot be good for this institution that the society must tell us the standards to which we must adhere. We are not a Parliament of children; we must be the body that leads the setting of standards and carry the people with us,” the Prime Minister added.
COMMITTEE TO ESTABLISH REPORT FOR MEMBERS
Holness told the House that the Committee will also be asked to establish a reporting and accountability framework for members.
These, he said, to include standard periodic reports to Parliament on the work of MPs in their constituencies, the use of public resources such as the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), and engagements with constituents.
“The attendance and participation of members in the House and committees will also be tracked and action determined for absences beyond a set threshold,” Holness said.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said the Government is on a journey towards transforming the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of governance and public service in Jamaica.
“We have taken a massive step forward with the comprehensive restructuring of our system of public-sector compensation. While critically important, compensation is one element. The Government is determined, and we are moving forward with the complementary key element, which is accountability for performance. Our mission is to ensure that the people of Jamaica enjoy the best public service, the best governance and have access to the best quality of leadership… that any country can have,” Holness maintained.
For his part, Leader of the Opposition, Mark Golding, said opposition members will be participating “fulsomely in the discussions on the job descriptions for MPs”.
He advised that they will be “seeking to further the quest for the transparent and clear description as to what MPs are expected to do, whether it be in the parliamentary duties or in their constituency duties and what they are expected not to do as well”.