JIS News

Cabinet is to conduct a review of the public service staff orders, which allow the Attorney-General’s Department to charge fees for legal work and advice to government companies and statutory bodies.
Attorney-General, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, who made the announcement at the (Oct. 2) post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, said that the move comes against the background of reports, which surfaced in the media recently, about the practice of state attorneys to charge central government entities for legal services.
She noted however, that the public service staff orders allow the Department to charge for services carried out on behalf of government or statutory bodies, once this is in keeping with certain guidelines.
“The guidelines are that, if you wish to use a public officer, you should negotiate the terms of the agreement as to the payment with the head of that department, and if the person you are negotiating with is actually the head of the department, it should be done with the Permanent Secretary with responsibility for the public service,” the Attorney General explained.
In relation to the charging of fees, Senator Lightbourne said that “bills should be tendered by the (relevant) Ministry or department and the fees paid to the ministry or department, and a fixed percentage of the fees paid should then be paid as an honorarium to the (legal) officer.so this was what was taking place.”
Stating that the practice began in the early 1970s, Senator Lightbourne told journalists that “the orders started off by saying that public officers were forbidden to undertake private work for payment without the appropriate (Public) Services Commission approval. They were also forbidden to undertake any commission for work that was connected with the exercise of their public duties”.
She said that the orders “did not prohibit public officers from making arrangements for undertaking work for payment for statutory bodies and corporate bodies established by the government, and so the department would charge fees for work done.”
Senator Lightbourne noted, however, that there was a lot of controversy surrounding the issue, and so the staff orders were amended in 2002 to allow for members of that Attorney-General’s Department to be paid an honorarium for their work.
According to Senator Lightbourne, the decision by Cabinet to review the staff orders, as they relate to the Attorney-General’s Department is necessary, as the department holds a place of precedence in the legal system of the country.
“It is the principal legal advisor to the Government of Jamaica, which means that all central government agencies go to them for advice and so we will now have to revisit and look at the guidelines as to how we move forward from now on,” she stated.

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