Ambassador Douglas Saunders is to remain in the position of Cabinet Secretary until a new individual is selected for the post by the Office of the Services Commission.
The announcement was made by Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) with responsibility for information, Robert Morgan, at a post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House on Wednesday.
Former Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Rocky Meade, was to take office as the new Cabinet Secretary on October 1, succeeding Saunders who was to proceed on retirement after holding the post since June 2008.
But more than 48 hours after the announcement of a new appointee to the post on Tuesday, September 13, Meade declined the Cabinet Secretary position amid increasing public discourse around the matter relative to the constitutionality of the appointment.
Morgan was asked on Wednesday whether there is a new appointee to the position, given Saunders’ expected retirement next month.
“The selection of a Cabinet secretary comes through the Office of the Services Commission and that is the authority that manages the entire process,” said Morgan.
“I will have to wait on them to make a decision as to who the next Cabinet secretary is, and when that announcement will be made.
“When they make the decision it goes to the governor-general. He approves it or signs off on it, and then it comes to us (at Cabinet) and we announce it,” he said.
Added Morgan relative to the status of Saunders: “The current Cabinet secretary is at work.
“He was obviously planning his post-Cabinet secretary life, but I suspect he will be with us for a little longer.”
Pressed further as to whether that meant that Saunders will remain in the post of Cabinet Secretary until his replacement is selected, Morgan responded: “Definitely”.
To date, the Government has not commented on whether Meade’s initial appointment as Cabinet secretary was constitutional.
“After almost four decades of service to the people of Jamaica, I was convinced to continue to serve, and had initially indicated my intention to accept the offer,” said Meade of his then appointment.
“Although I was invited by the Public Services Commission to be considered for the post while I was still a serving officer, the current public discourse does not provide a sufficiently settled environment for the assumption of such a significant office, and I will therefore seek His Excellency’s understanding of my decision to decline (the offer),” he indicated then.
But some high-level legal minds nationally had expressed the view that Meade as a military officer, was not a public officer, as members of the military are not formally considered public officers, and the constitution requires that a present or former public officer be appointed as Cabinet secretary.
According to the Office of the Cabinet, “The Cabinet secretary is the most senior policy adviser in the civil service.
“He is secretary to the Cabinet, responsible to all ministers for the running of Cabinet, and is also the head of the civil service.”
Additional roles of the Cabinet secretary include, among other things, providing support and advice to the Government and overseeing the provision of policy and secretariat support to Cabinet and Cabinet committees.