Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Now not the time to resign -- Paulwell
CHARMAINE N CLARKE, Western Bureau editor
Monday, March 25, 2002


MONTEGO BAY -- Beleaguered Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell says now is not the time for him to resign as he has much to do, including using a US$30-million Inter-American Development Bank loan to provide e-government facilities.

The loan, which he expects to be available in June, will be used, Paulwell says, to put the infrastructure in place to enable government institutions to offer more services to the public.

"The loan will be used to build the infrastructure, we're going to be using it to provide greater training and enable government to provide an e-government facility that will allow people to do transactions on line," Paulwell told the Observer after last Friday's official opening of the Bureau of Standard's Montego Bay Regional Centre and launch of the Bureau's citizens' charter. The bureau is one of the agencies for which Paulwell has portfolio responsibility.

Over the past four months, Paulwell has weathered repeated calls from the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party for his resignation or sacking in the wake of the NetServ scandal which cost taxpayers about $220 million.

Over the past two years, he has had to watch the crumbling of the main plank on which he was building his ministry, the creation of 40,000 information technology jobs over a five-year period. And, in the wake of the NetServ scandal, which provided only a fraction of the jobs promised, the management of the government's Intech Fund was removed from his control and given to the National Investment Bank of Jamaica.

But on Friday, Paulwell maintained that he still has a lot to accomplish and that he was not concerned that his ministry's role was dwindling. He said he would now use the opportunity to refocus on other aspects of his ministry.

"There is now the need for the ministry to refocus on our major function, which is the promotion of the industry and we do have some important initiatives," he told the Observer.

In connection with the NetServ issue, Paulwell has steadily maintained that his hands are clean and Prime Minister P J Patterson, in defending Paulwell, has said the only thing his minister was guilty of was youthful exuberance.

But the administration's critics have made the point that the government has missed the essential point of taking accountability for their actions when things go wrong.

Ironically, in his keynote address during Friday's function in Montego Bay, Paulwell himself stressed the need for accountability in the public sector.

"The provision of quality service should not be optional in the public sector," he said. "Citizens have a right to expect and demand a certain level of service from public sector institutions. We are not doing the public a favour when we deliver quality service. That is what the bureau is here for and this citizens' charter says: 'Hold us to it'."