HEART leaders receive high new salaries ahead of approval | Stories of lead
Details have emerged that HEART / NSTA Trust paid undisclosed millions in new salaries to senior executives before obtaining the required approvals.
However, the state agency reporting to Prime Minister Andrew Holness has denied a Sunday Gleaner access to information request for the new salary scales put in place after three other training-related entities merged into its structure in 2018.
It is one of a series of controversies surrounding the agency’s operations, which is expected to spend around $ 14 billion in the fiscal year, most of which will be collected through an employer tax.
As late as last Tuesday, opposition lawmaker Julian Robinson asked questions in the House of Representatives for Holness to answer in 21 days.
The PM is due to provide details on the cost of a board retreat last month at an expensive St Ann-based hotel.
The questions came as staff feared the cost of the meeting on the north coast was excessive.
HEART did not acknowledge the questions sent by our press team on Thursday requesting confirmation of details of the retreat, including whether it cost $ 5 million.
The Sunday Gleaner obtained an estimate of expenses, although it is not clear whether these are the final costs involved in organizing the event attended by board members and senior management.
A breakdown of this unconfirmed estimate showed $ 3.4 million for accommodation; $ 800,000 for a moderator; $ 664,000 for a strategic coach; and $ 240,000 to cover incidental costs.
A rationale for the moderator stated that the individual was a qualified communicator and instructor with good time management skills that the agency said were necessary for the effective and efficient execution of retreat activities.
Some hotels give discounts ranging from 5% to 20% for such events, depending on the size of the group. But it was also not clear whether HEART benefited from it.
The board chaired by Edward Gabbidon reportedly convened after Robinson’s questions were tabled, with a deep interest on the part of some members in how the details of the agency’s affairs were reaching the public domain.
At the end of the week, staff anxiety increased over the instability of the agency’s leadership after a statement said Novelette Denton-Prince and Kenesha Campbell would continue to act as respectively. as Director General and Deputy Director General, until a recruitment process for these positions is completed.
Denton-Prince started in the post in April and was granted extensions until August before the latest announcement. She succeeded Dr Janet Dyer, whose contract was not renewed by the board in February.
“Everything about HEART these days is just very lousy. I know they had a plan, but since then The gleaner started to reveal things, it’s like everything has changed, ”said an official in the Prime Minister’s office.
As a result of the merger of the National Youth Service, the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning and the Learning Council into HEART, a new structure has emerged to reflect the expanded scope and the increased responsibilities of civil servants.
This meant new pay scales and, in some cases, new positions at the agency.
However, people were being paid at the new rates even before approvals were granted, documents confirmed.
“Neither the board of directors nor the MoFPS (Ministry of Finance and Civil Service) approved the classifications before the partial implementation of the salary scale,” the agency admitted in a report submitted to the Commission public administration and credits.
After the unauthorized payments, HEART submitted a justification to the Ministry of Finance.
According to HEART, in a letter dated July 14, 2021, the ministry did not issue any objections in order “to avoid any negative impact on the staff of the Trust and in an effort to maintain industrial harmony”.
These payments were considered to have taken effect on April 1, 2020.
HEART did not reveal to lawmakers its rationale for a Heroes Circle official saying “he forced the finance ministry to do what it would not have preferred to do … because HEART knew it had to get clearance.” “.
Further investigation suggests that HEART may have been spared in the details it provided to Parliament on how it proceeded with the unauthorized salary payments under the new scale.
The Sunday Gleaner saw documents revealing the payment of new salaries to senior executives and department heads only, months before their subordinates received raises or were paid at their new levels.
A draft 14-page compensation plan for the HEART / NSTA Trust merger shows base salaries broken down into 15 levels, each with five levels of increment, in addition to associated allowances.
Level one is the lowest and has a minimum wage of $ 778,800 and a maximum of $ 946,554.
Level 15 covers the General Manager and opens with a minimum base salary of $ 9.9 million and a maximum of $ 11.7.
Concerns persist that workers at the National Council for Technical and Vocational Training and the Training Institute for the Development of Vocational Training are not being paid under the new structure.
NCTVET moved on to the Department of Education which struggled to explain why a new board to approve qualifications has not been put in place for months.
Salaries are however paid by HEART.
Although HEART appeared before Parliament’s Committee on Public Administration and Appropriations on July 28, these issues were not addressed and were deferred to future meetings.
Two months ago, however, The Sunday Gleaner submitted an access to information request to HEART for a copy of the new pay scale and details of any unauthorized payments.
HEART responded in October, denying access to documents that would show how it handled taxpayer money.
This position appears to run counter to the Prime Minister’s opinion that this information should be made public, as well as the position of the Ministry of Finance, which has long published civil service salary grids.
Earlier this year, Holness backed the publication of the Police Commissioner’s contract after the Office of Services Boards denied a Gleaner request. The office then reversed its position as public pressure mounted.
The gleaner filed an appeal which has not yet been recognized by HEART.
Over the summer, HEART was forced to drop an illegal tax it had imposed on itinerant agents for decades following a finance ministry decision.
A return to mileage claims caused headaches.
Its problems began last year with the release of an Auditor General’s report that raised questions about its certification rates despite millions of dollars spent on training.
And last month, the Auditor General revealed that HEART had transferred $ 75 million to a rogue state advisory body, the Joint Committee for Tertiary Education, to fund a Department of Education program, without doing anything to explain how the money had been used.
This committee was chaired by Cecil Cornwall, the president and founder of the Western Hospitality Institute (WHI) which has been late for years in paying statutory taxes owed to HEART.
Documents also revealed that at the time HEART was doing business with the WHI during its period of delinquency.
Cornwall, which controversially created an entity of the same name as the government’s JCTE, also served on the board of HEART (2015-2017).