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'Activist Minister' Christopher Tufton In His Own Words
This past week, 18º North revealed how Jamaica's Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton had pushed for the government’s initial funding of Jamaica Moves and helped oversee the implementation of the health and fitness campaign.
Since the campaign featured him as chief spokesperson and was a project of his alleged sweetheart's firm, we asked: was he just doing his job or did he overstep the boundaries?
Dr. Tufton’s book, State of Mind: Politics, Uncertainty and the Search for the Jamaican Dream, offers some insight into his mindset.
As agriculture minister between 2007 and 2011, he understood that it was the ministry’s staff that was supposed to drive the implementation process of the minister’s policies, in theory. But in practice, an “activist minister” does more than that.
Dr. Tufton stated that, “maintaining the appropriate boundaries” when there is work to be done and nothing seems to be moving forward is “one of the greatest challenges” he has faced as a government minister.
Determined to make his mark in whatever ministry he was assigned, he wrote, “I was going to do whatever it took to make a positive difference.”
On Jamaica Moves, Shirley-Ann Eaton, attorney and lecturer on ethics and corporate governance at the Mona School of Business & Management at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, told 18º North that, on the surface, “There is nothing wrong with a minister pitching the general idea of a fitness programme.”
However, she said, “The challenge for Tufton is that this project ends up being given to his alleged very close friend, who was then on the Board [that funded the project] so the whole initiative appears incestuous.”
While in a release, the minister referred to social media posts about the affair as “disgusting, vicious and false attributions,” neither he nor the firm’s principal, Lyndsey McDonnough, has explicitly denied allegations that the affair took place.
Ms. McDonnough would resign the board of the National Health Fund (NHF) on Feb. 15, 2017, the same day that its finance committee supported the project to be submitted to the full board of management for $15 million (US$116,859) in initial funding.
That funding recommendation at the finance committee level would then move to the full board a week later on Feb. 22, 2017 where it was approved. Of note,Dr. Tufton addressed that board meeting.
The rate used to convert Jamaican dollars to US is $128.36, the average exchange rate on the Bank of Jamaica’s website for the year 2017, when the initial round of funding for Jamaica Moves took place.
While the minutes of that Feb. 22, 2017 don’t reflect that Dr. Tufton left before the funding was approved, the NHF clarified to 18º North that, “the Hon. Minister left immediately following his address.” However, when 18º North followed up and asked why the recording secretary would have failed to record the minister leaving but noted the exact time of departure for other board members that day, the NHF didn’t respond.
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