FOREIGN AFFAIRS minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, is moving to have the lawsuit filed against her by a former Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent thrown out of the Supreme Court. The lawsuit pertains to donations for her failed 2022 bid for the position of Commonwealth secretary general.
The high court is scheduled to hear an application on October 26, by Johnson Smith’s legal team, to strike out the claim. The legal team for the ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs will also make similar applications.
In the aftermath of the minister’s failure to unseat Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland, the Government had disclosed that corporate entities contributed to the payment of US$99,000 or J$15 million for public relations services for Johnson Smith’s campaign.
FAILED TO COMPLY
Jamaica-born retired United States (US) law-enforcement agent Wilfred Rattigan, in the claim filed by his lawyer Sophia Bryan, is seeking a declaration that both Johnson Smith and her ministry did not comply with the law and a directive by the Ministry of Finance that requires them to report the donation as a gift.
It also wants the court to declare that the finance ministry, listed as the third defendant, has “failed to take appropriate action to compel” Johnson and her ministry to “comply with the applicable statutory and administrative regulations”.
Additionally, the claim wants the court to find that Johnson Smith has failed to disclose the donation to the anti-corruption body, the Integrity Commission, and Tax Administration Jamaica.
Yesterday, the matter was called up for the first hearing but was adjourned until October for the strike-out application to be heard.
Chukwuemeka Cameron, who is representing the foreign affairs minister, told The Gleaner that the matter was adjourned after lawyers for the attorney general, which represents the ministries, along with himself, filed applications to strike out the claim.
Rattigan’s lawsuit relies on the provisions of Section 9.3 of the Financial Administration and Audit Act (FAAA) and Circular Number 17 issued by the Ministry of Finance on June 10, 2013.
Among other things, the law stipulates that when gifts are received, an acceptance of gift form must be completed and signed by the responsible officer of the ministry, department, or agency receiving it as well as the accounting officer, head of the department, chief executive officer or their designate.
Rattigan had argued in the lawsuit that it is “abundantly clear” that the monies paid to US-based firm Finn Partners for Johnson Smith’s public relations campaign was a “gift/donation and is therefore governed by the requirement of the FAAA under Section 9.3”.
Further, he said financial instructions issued under the FAAA “are intended to ensure that financial transactions are properly recorded and reported on a consistent basis and that the appropriate controls are in place”.
Rattigan said Johnson Smith, like all government personnel, has a responsibility to read, interpret, and consistently apply the financial instructions in their daily operations.
“Based on the totality of the circumstances, it is patently clear that the monies paid by private individuals/companies to Finn Partners Inc was for the benefit of the first respondent in her official capacity and, by extension, the Jamaican Government,” the lawsuit said, referring to the foreign minister.
As such, it said that Johnson Smith should have submitted the required filings to the appropriate government ministry.
Johnson Smith, through her lawyer, had rejected the allegations while noting that she is committed to defending herself against the allegations purportedly made in the lawsuit. She had also expressed confidence that the legal process will reveal the truth of the matter and will ultimately vindicate her.
The minister also emphasised that she believes in upholding the highest standards of transparency, accountability, and ethical conduct in her position as a public servant.