CDF Unit Head Kedesha Campbell-Rochester Among Those Who Were Part of PM Holness' Positive Jamaica Foundation While Ascending To Prominent Positions
The Positive Jamaica Foundation Alumni
While serving alongside Prime Minister Andrew Holness as a director of his Positive Jamaica Foundation Ltd. and director and secretary of another of his non-profits, West Central St. Andrew Trust, Kedesha Campbell was hired in May 2018 as Project Director of the Constituency Development Fund Project Management Unit (CDFPMU) within the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
An Access To Information (ATI) response indicates that Mrs. Campbell, who has since added Rochester to her last name, was hired without competition.
The ATI response received from the OPM in August 2021 stated that the “recruitment of the Project Director, CDFPMU was conducted pursuant to Section 1.8(ii) of the Staff Orders for the Public Service (2004).”
Section 1.8 deals with PROMOTION, and subsection (i) states that:-
As a general rule, selection processes for promotion opportunities should be through competition duly conducted, and should provide fair and equitable access and opportunity to all candidates across the public service who may be interested in, and eligible to apply for the position.
However, subsection (ii), which is the section the OPM relied upon to hire Mrs. Campbell-Rochester, lays out a way to go around this rule requiring competition.
It states that:-
In exceptional circumstances, Permanent Secretaries/Heads of Departments may make a case for a promotion without competition, e.g. where the talent pool is limited and known, or where the decision relates to the training and development strategy in the Human Resource Management Plan. In such cases, the appointment decision should be posted, so that anyone who may have had an interest may exercise the right of appeal.
To understand why this assignment was considered a “promotion”, 18º North asked Mrs. Campbell-Rochester what her role was prior to her contract as Project Director of the CDFPMU, but she didn’t respond. It was reported in The Gleaner that she was a project management specialist with more than 10 years' experience in the public sector and used to be the personal assistant of Prime Minister Holness, but it’s not clear if she held that role immediately prior to being appointed.
As far as whether the appointment decision was posted so that anyone with an interest had a chance to appeal, the then permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Audrey Sewell, didn’t respond to that question. A signature matching that of Mrs. Sewell was the one that appeared on Mrs. Campbell-Rochester’s signed contract at the time in 2018. Mrs. Sewell is now Cabinet Secretary. On Friday, 18º North also sent questions about the same matter to the current permanent secretary in the OPM, Ambassador Rocky Meade, but there hasn't been a response as yet.
Conflict of Interest Considerations
One condition of Mrs. Campbell-Rochester’s contract, to which she signed, was that she was required to declare and undertake that she would not be subject to any other work commitment which would be in conflict with her Project Director role at OPM, and she would be required to observe Sections 4.2.8, 4.2.9 and 4.2.10 of the Staff Orders.
Section 4.2.9 deals with conflict of interest, and lays out that one of the ways a conflict may be deemed to exist is when public employees act as “directors of companies or societies.” To address the potential for conflict of interest, subsection (ii) of that section states, “Officers should in all instances inform the appropriate authority of any such undertaking, seek clarification and get permission. Any such permission would be subject to periodic review.”
18º North asked Mrs. Campbell-Rochester if she had ever disclosed to any hiring committee prior to being hired or while on the job that she was a director of two of Mr. Holness’ foundations, but she didn’t respond. Neither did Mr. Holness respond when asked if he was involved in the selection of Mrs. Campbell-Rochester for the role, and if he had made any disclosures. Of note, is that it was announced in a letter from Mr. Holness to the CDF committee of parliament that Mrs. Campbell-Rochester had started on May 1, 2018, as reported by The Gleaner. However, her employment contract sent as part of the 2021 ATI response from OPM shows that she only signed it two months into her tenure on July 30, 2018.
At the time of Mrs. Campbell-Rochester’s hiring, the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) decried the process, reportedly saying in a statement that it wasn’t clear that the position was advertised and everyone given equal treatment, as is required, to fill vacancies such as the position in question. According to an article in the Jamaica Observer, the PNP encouraged the government to take steps to ensure that the operations of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) unit weren’t “exposed to unnecessary partisan shenanigans” such as delays in project approval and unavailability of resources. The CDF is a designated pool of government funds for constituency projects. The allocation is $20 million (US$127,518) annually for each of the 63 members of parliament—an amount which exceeds $1.2 billion (US$8.03 million).
As far as the issue of Mrs. Campbell-Rochester having served as CDF head while also serving as a director of two of Mr. Holness’ foundations, this year, 18º North contacted former Opposition member of the CDF Parliamentary Committee, the PNP's Natalie Neita Garvey. Mrs. Neita Garvey made clear that while there may not be anything suspicious about serving in a role for a charity organization or trust, serving on a trust of “a current member of parliament with whom and for whom you have to make decisions as it relates to his allocations and how spending is done and to give oversight, I would believe that there would be a clear conflict for me, even if it's just perceived.”
Positive Jamaica Foundation Ltd. was set up in November, 2011 to go towards social projects benefitting residents across inner-city and depressed communities in the nation, according to its company records. It was set up a few weeks before Mr. Holness, who was then serving his first term as prime minister, called a general election that December, an election his Jamaica Labour Party would end up losing. West Central St. Andrew Trust Limited was established in 2000 for the “welfare, education and development” of the people in that constituency. Mr. Holness has firmly and consistently been the member of parliament for that constituency since 1998. (West Central St. Andrew Trust dropped the “Limited” from its name in June 2017, according to company records.)
Mrs. Campbell-Rochester ceased being a director of Positive Jamaica and West Central St. Andrew Trust in July, 2020, about two years after being in the CDFPMU Project Director role. She ceased being the secretary for West Central St. Andrew on Dec. 1, 2021, the same day Mr. Holness also stopped being a director of Positive Jamaica. He also discontinued being a director of West Central St. Andrew Trust on Dec. 21, 2021.
Mrs. Campbell-Rochester’s latest contract for the position was renewed in 2022 and will last for three years. Her salary is now $4.8 million per year.
In 2018, at the time of her first six-month contract as Project Director of the CDFPMU, she was earning around $4.2 million (US$33,014) a year, plus as much as $1.24 million (US$9,688) in traveling allowance. Upon her first contract extension in 2019, which was to last until 2022, a 25% gratuity was added to her compensation package, meaning she would get 25% of her basic salary after the first two years of the contract period, and thereafter, annually, subject to satisfactory performance. Her extension of contract letter was signed then by Mrs. Sewell.
Updated to include Mrs. Campbell-Rochester’s current salary.
U.S. currency equivalents of CDF allocations are based on a spot calculation on XE.com. The 2018 Project Director salary amounts in USD equivalents are calculated based on the average annual buy rate for that year on the Bank of Jamaica’s website of $128.36.