Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ administration has purchased at least 18 high-end, high-maintenance motor vehicles at a cost of approximately $190 million, despite his promise days after winning the 2016 general election to discontinue the practice of allowing former Cabinet ministers to purchase government vehicles assigned to them.
Holness, in a post on his page on the social-media site Facebook after his election victory, said the Government’s motor vehicle policy was one of the issues he discussed when he met with the Cabinet Secretary and the permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister shortly after the election.
According to Holness, the move to discontinue the procedure was part of the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) commitment to change how government operates.
PM’s $16.7 MILLION BMW
However, information obtained by The Sunday Gleaner under the Access to Information Act (ATI) showed that among the luxury vehicles purchased by the current administration is the one assigned to the prime minister.
The 2017 740Li BMW, which is the official vehicle of Prime Minister Holness, is reported to cost $16.7 million. Education Minister Ruel Reid and Minister Clifford (Everald) Warmington are driving $10-million Toyota Land Cruisers (Prado). Pearnel Charles Jr is driving a $7.7-million Toyota Land Cruiser Prado.
It is unclear what provisions under the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) Comprehensive Motor Vehicle Policy for the Public Sector 2017 allow for vehicles to be assigned to senators Reid and Charles Jr, as well as Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith.
According to the cover letter of the ATI response, signed by Audrey McKenzie for the financial secretary, it reads, inter alia: “Please note that Appendix 1 of the GOJ Revised Comprehensive Motor Vehicle Policy for the Public Sector 2017, list the assignees eligible for government-owned motor vehicles. Only members of parliament who are Cabinet ministers and the president of the Senate are provided with an assigned vehicle to carry out ministerial duties.”
Toyota Land Cruiser appears to be the vehicle of choice for the Cabinet ministers, as among 22 vehicles purchased (four under the previous administration), 12 are Prados; four are Pajeros, and there is a $9.8-million 2017 Mercedes-Benz assigned to Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte.
When he first took office, Holness initially used the vehicle assigned to former prime ministers P.J. Patterson, Bruce Golding and Portia Simpson Miller. However, on at least two
occasions the vehicle reportedly broke down, at one time when the prime minister was on his way to the funeral of Brian George in 2016.