Government's Approved Budget for Jamaica Moves Tops $100 Million. Here's Who Benefited...
As questions continue to swirl around marketing firm Market Me and the healthy-lifestyles campaign it executed called Jamaica Moves, new information reveals that an agency of the Ministry of Health & Wellness approved $114 million (US$824,832) to be spent on the overall program. The finding reveals the level of investment for an initiative pushed heavily by the government with Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton as key spokesperson, but for a brand that’s owned by Market Me.*
The response from an Access to Information request shows that of the amount approved, the agency National Health Fund (NHF) paid out roughly $78 million (US$564,759) to various individuals and firms between September 2019 and September 2020. Permanent Secretary Dunstan Bryan told 18º North that as far as the ministry’s overall contribution to the program, NHF funded the core of Jamaica Moves.
About $34 million (US$248,283) of what was paid out by NHF specifically went to Market Me, according to an 18º North calculation.
These amounts are separate from any private-sector funding raised by the firm for Jamaica Moves, which it said “was in excess of $75 million” (US$569,692) between 2016 and 2020.
First anniversary of Jamaica Moves commemorated with Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton in the center in the lime green Jamaica Moves-branded shirt. Photo taken from the Jamaica Moves Facebook page.
From the ministry, Market Me had received two contracts to execute Jamaica Moves - one for $15.9 million (US$123,876) in 2017 and another for $38.9 million (US$290,060) in 2019, both funded by the NHF, according to Permanent Secretary Bryan.
The first of the two contracts was approved in December 2016 for Market Me to be hired by the ministry using the direct-contracting method while the firm’s co-owner, Lyndsey McDonnough, served on the NHF board. Ms. McDonnough subsequently resigned from the board in February 2017, and the contract with the ministry was signed in June of that year.
Despite 18º North’s repeated questions, the NHF has still not made clear whether the amounts from Market Me’s 2017 contract are included in the $78 million, but based on the amounts paid out, it appears not to be. After six weeks of no response, 18º North is making available what we did receive from the NHF.
Market Me got payments from the NHF in September, even after questions surfaced in July about the process by which contracts were awarded to the firm. Still outstanding as well is whether there was any undue influence from Dr. Tufton, who, social media posts alleged had a romantic affair with Ms. McDonnough while contracts were being awarded to her firm. In a release, Dr. Tufton dismissed the posts as “disgusting, vicious and false attributions,” but then dodged reporters’ questions when asked more directly about his connections to her. He also did not respond to an 18º North email about whether he was involved in the procurement process. Ms. McDonnough did not respond to 18º North’s email seeking comment.
In an interview earlier this month, Permanent Secretary Bryan told 18º North the September payments were for “final payments on the contract,” which expired in June of this year, and then one “final, final payment,” on the same contract would be made to Market Me this month. (It’s not known if that payment has now been made.)
Market Me was getting regular monthly payments from the NHF until June 2020, when there was a noticeable pause. Payments resumed again on September 18. This was after Jamaica’s general elections on September 3, which saw Dr. Tufton retain his seat. He was also re-appointed to the portfolio. Market Me did not respond as to why there was a gap in payments.
Several media houses were also beneficiaries of Jamaica Moves payments from the NHF. The RJRGLEANER Communications Group, the biggest media conglomerate in Jamaica, received the most from the program - almost $25 million (US$180,106) since late 2019.
*Permanent Secretary Dunstan Bryan told 18º North in early November that, after negotiation and at no cost to the government, the Jamaica Moves trademark would be transferred this month to the ministry. However, a visit today to Jamaica’s Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) showed the mark is still registered to Market Me. JIPO says no application has been filed to initiate the transfer.
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