THE new government's controversial omnibus job programme -- the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) -- is again under the microscope with civil society lobbyists demanding greater transparency regarding its funding.
Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) and the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) have both requested more details about how the programme will be implemented. This, in the wake of declarations by the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party, that the first phase of JEEP is really the result of a loan agreement it signed with the Inter American Bank (IDB) while it was in power.
Both the JFJ and the JCSC want the Government to explain how much counterpart funding is needed for the loan and exactly where it will come from.
"In the absence of such openness it will be difficult to reconcile that on the one hand the finance minister is coming to Parliament to announce more cuts and austerity, and on the other hand, we will be laying out millions of dollars of counterpart funding to enable 'JEEP'," said JFJ in its release yesterday afternoon.
This was echoed by the Coalition which, in its press statement, called on Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to "explain to the nation the total amount which taxpayers will have to find to match the IDB loan and where that money will taken from".
The fact that the selection of the 700 unemployed persons to participate in the programme will be done by members of Parliament also does not bode well, according to the lobbyists.
"This is the old style discredited politics of 'scarce benefits and spoils', whereby party supporters get work in disproportionate numbers to those of other, or no political persuasion. Already we see one MP reported as saying that of his quota of 50 jobs "based on consultations with councillors... 10 of the people selected are supporters of the JLP, five did not vote in the last election and 35 were PNP supporters," said JFJ.
The human rights group argued that in 21st century Jamaica, people "must see competitive selection processes which result in the most competent persons getting the jobs" and called for an immediate halt in the selection of workers by MPs. The group wants this task to go to relevant Government agencies to ensure that a transparent and fair selection process which will see the most able persons employed.
The JCSC, too, called for the establishment of a multi-stakeholder process, "which is systematised, with appropriate benchmarks for monitoring and evaluating performance. We recommend that the process be coordinated through the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, and involverelevant state agencies, community-based organisations and other non-state actors engaged in community development and social welfare in the process of recruiting and identifying the potential workers", said the coalition.