How Public Sector Officials Obfuscate On Allegations of Corruption. The Case of Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton and Market Me.
In December 2020, 18º North requested a batch of items under Jamaica’s Access to Information Act (ATI). The requests were made as 18º North probed the roughly $88 million (1US$654,367) in contracts to marketing firm, Market Me, from the Ministry of Health & Wellness and related entities using the direct-contracting method.
The probe became necessary after social media posts earlier in that year alleged that Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton and Market Me’s principal Lyndsey McDonnough had been having an affair while contracts from his ministry were being awarded to her firm. In a release, the minister referred to the posts as “disgusting, vicious and false attributions,” but neither he nor Ms. McDonnough has explicitly denied that the affair occurred.
Though the authorities usually have 30 days to deliver the information under the ATI Act, with some flexibility, 18º North had to wait almost a year to get important information to see if Dr. Tufton had influenced the awarding of contracts to her firm and whether cronyism and nepotism were at play.
Instead of being forthright and transparent, several officials connected to the health ministry have either been non-responsive, vague, or employed a series of delay tactics, causing 18º North to question where their loyalties lie.
Most notable have been those currently and previously affiliated with an agency of the ministry, the National Health Fund (NHF), the same organization that has been awarded year after year by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica for its corporate governance policies and practices and for disclosure of information.
Among them are Shermaine Robotham, the NHF’s Director Health Promotions, Public Relations, Customer Care; Everton Anderson, the NHF’s CEO; and Christopher Zacca, the former chairman of the NHF board from April 2016 to February 2017, when the initial round of government funding for Market Me’s health and fitness campaign, Jamaica Moves, took place.