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Audley Shaw racks up $8 million phone bill

Finance Minister Audley Shaw has racked up a cell phone bill amounting to $8.34 million for the March 2016 to February 2017 period.
     
The figure was obtained through an Access to Information Request by RJR News.
     
The Finance Ministry indicated that Minister Shaw was only told about his high phone bill this year after the ministry's financial secretary got wind of RJR's ATI request in March.

The three lowest bills for the minister over the period was one for more than $5,000, one at more than $$22,000 and another at $68,000.

However, the highest bills came in December, August and October. 

In December, the minister's bill was more than $838,000. In August, it was more than $1.5 million. But in October, the cell phone bill for the finance minister reached more than $4.2 million. 

For August and October, the Finance Ministry said Mr. Shaw travelled overseas for official and urgent personal reasons.

According to the ministry, he was involved in finalising Jamaica's Precautionary Standby Agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

A query with the service provider later showed that the charges were due to data usage while roaming.

When Minister Shaw's phone was inspected, RJR News was told that mobile data roaming settings were not adjusted for use over wifi only.

The ministry said that his phone settings were later adjusted and the Mr. Shaw was told to use wifi connections as often as possible.

Since then, the Finance Ministry said Mr. Shaw has paid roughly $2.6 million to the ministry for personal roaming data usage.

Following the discovery, the minister has since instructed the Finance Ministry to place a cap on usage for government issued cellular phones.

The finance minister also instructed technocrats to consider setting limits on calls and data services for government officials who do not have limits.

Negotiations will also be carried out with the service provider for them to offer special deals for such officials who travel abroad.

Other ministers 
 
Meanwhile, RJR News has also received the phone bills for other government and state ministers between March 2016 and February 2017.
   
Finance State Minister Fayval Williams accumulated a cell phone bill reaching almost $819,000.
   
For her Finance Ministry colleague, Rudyard Sencer, it was roughly $361,000.
   
In the Office of the Prime Minister, the cell phone bill for Daryl Vaz was almost $630,000.
   
Dr. Horace Chang's bill was a little more than $200,000 and Derrick Smith, $91,000.
   
The cell phone bill for Pearnel Charles Jr. for the period was more than $355,000.
   
RJR News has still not received the phone bills for Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton and Labour Minister Shahine Robinson.
 
Andrew Holness  
 
When RJR News asked the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) for Andrew Holness' phone bill, it received an email response dated May 2017, saying: "Please note that the Office of the Prime Minister is not responsible for the mobile telephone bills of the Prime Minister." 
   
If this information holds true, that would make Mr. Holness one of two government officials who are directly responsible for their own cell phone bills. 
 
Earlier this year, RJR News reported that National Security Minister Robert Montague uses his personal mobile phone and pays the bill.
   
It is not clear whether either the prime minister or the national security minister discusses national business on their private phones.
 


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