THE Government is projecting savings of more than $30 million annually with the shuttering of the Office of the Political Ombudsman (OPO) and shifting its functions to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica.
Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck on Wednesday confirmed that the OPO will be closed with the term of its last head, Donna Parchment Brown, coming to an end on Tuesday.
“The functions of the political ombudsman will be, going forward, subsumed under the electoral commission,” Chuck told the Jamaica Observer.
“From as far back as 2012, Parliament passed a resolution to say that a political ombudsman functions would be better supervised and managed by the electoral commission where you have independent members [as well as] representatives of both political parties to consider the complaints that come in at any time, but especially at election time.
“Even before Donna Parchment became commissioner, that was the position put forward by member [Everald] Warmington and brought to the House of Parliament,” added Chuck as he argued that the electoral commission has a good reputation of settling contentions between the parties.
According to Chuck, the decision to shut down the OPO was not linked to any ruling by the former head Parchment Brown.
“It has nothing to do with her; it is a matter that we feel is not necessary and furthermore, the only time it really functions is around election time. And secondly, we are spending $30-odd-million unnecessarily. When member Warmington first raised the issue it was $18 million, now it is $30-odd-million for functions that could easily be handled by the electoral commission,” added Chuck.
The OPO was established as a commission of Parliament to conduct investigations in accordance with the provisions of the Political Ombudsman (Interim) Act, 2002.
It is mandated to investigate any action taken by a political party, its members or supporters, where he is of the opinion that such action constitutes, or is likely to constitute, a breach of the Political Code of Conduct agreed or is likely to prejudice good relations between supporters of various political parties.
When the future of the OPO was discussed in Parliament in 2012 the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica and the Professor Trevor Munroe-led National Integrity Action were among those who urged the parliamentarians to keep the office.
At that time, Munroe argued that complaints or allegations of violations of the Political Code of Conduct would continue to require investigation of the body charged by law to carry out that task which was the OPO.
Yesterday Munroe was cautious to respond to the latest move by the Government as he was yet to see an official statement.