The Government has approved an interim policy for the use of mobile telephones, which places a cap of $40,000 on all telephone expenses by Ministers and Ministers of State.
The disclosure was made by Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, during Wednesday’s (Aug. 2) post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House.
“That figure should be for direct expenses of the Ministry to which the Minister is assigned,” he said.
He explained that the cap was arrived at based on a survey of voice, data, and roaming charges. “Having done the survey (we felt) that certainly $40,000 was a reasonable amount and, by consensus, the Cabinet reviewed the proposal and we agreed on that,” he noted.
Senator Reid said if the monthly expense is above the stipulated amount, an explanation would have to be provided to the Permanent Secretary.
“Unless there is justification for any amount above, that would have to be agreed to by the Permanent Secretary, and the Minister would be responsible for paying the amounts in excess of the $40, 000,” he pointed out.
He said consideration is being given to “some amount of retroactivity of the policy to about January this year, so if there are any breaches above that, then (arrangements) would have to be made by the respective Ministers for them to pay from their salaries or other arrangements made for them to defray those expenses.”
Senator Reid urged officials to act responsibly and be disciplined in managing their telephone bills when they are travelling locally and internationally.
“When you are in a physical location where Wi-Fi exists, then you… can switch off your mobile data to Wi-Fi,” he advised.
The interim policy follows the review of communication costs and high cellular phone bills being incurred for roaming and data charges.
The Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, had directed the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service to review and report on the respective policies for the provision of communication services, including cell phones, in the various Ministries.
Photo: JIS Photographer