Stringent checks before agreeing to next year’s public service funds – AFC
Alliance for Change (AFC) Leader Khemraj Ramjattan has indicated his party’s intent to scrutinize the spending of Public Servants’ funds before agreeing to allocations in the New Year.
Ramjattan highlighted the option of cutting budgeted funds if the government is unable to provide a paper trail or account for money previously budgeted for public workers’ increases. Ramjattan said, “the party will be scrutinizing thoroughly, where that $4.4B voted for Public Servants went.” He said that Finance Minister Ashni Singh is making the case, “and not very cogently, that it (allocations) went towards promotions of certain staff members and also the hiring of new recruits”, but “that money was not supposed to go there.” Ramjattan clarified, “revised wages and salaries are exclusively for the revision of wages and salaries for public workers during the course of the year and the Minister must say what happened to that money before we agree for any more. I did ask a question and he (Minister) never answered whether indeed any of the money for the revised wages and salaries went towards paying GINA and NCN staff and he deliberately did not answer that in Parliament.” “I believe moreover that when indeed they are caught, in the sense that they did take monies from the revised wages and salaries to put into other line items that were reduced, there must be some measure of accountability at the criminal law process. Right now we do not have the capacity to carry the Minister to court because the Financial Management and Accountability Act Section 85, only states officials are those who will be penalized; and after investigations, we were told by those in charge that officials do not mean the Minister.” That is why, Ramjattan continued, that the Bill by Mr. Carl Greenidge now indicates that official must now include the minister. “The President has not assented to that bill,” he asserted. It is then left to decide whether to go ahead with a private prosecution against the officials of the Ministry of Finance, who would then siphon off monies from the line items approved by the Assembly to line items that were not approved; “that is criminal. It has a penalty of imprisonment,” Ramjattan stated. He continued that it was intended, when passing the Financial Management Act, to endure that when the National Assembly puts money into line items, it is used for what it was approved. “So at budget time, there will be tremendous scrutiny as to where that revised wages and salary money went ($4.4B), even if he (Minister) has to tell us each promotion and each new worker that was hired and not paid out of the category called wages and salaries.” Wages and salaries, he explained, is different from revised wages and salaries since wages and salaries would have already catered for the projected promotions and hiring of staff. Party Vice Chairman Moses Nagamootoo said that, 12 to 15 percent increase for public workers was what was supported and, “it was our conviction at that time that we were voting for no less than 10 percent for the workers. It could have been as much as a 12 percent increase, but when we get this type of explanation that it was not all for wages, then somebody is misleading the National Assembly.” Nagamootoo said that the party supports the Public Servants protest. In terms of wage increases, it should be linked to collective bargaining, while trade unions should be recognized and retire from their “paused” position. He said that a tripartite committee must conduct a forensic of the budget involving trade unions, the opposition and the government. He continued that there should be a thorough examination of the budget to see how much revision of wages went for the increase in wages and that for new recruits. The party concluded however that the budget will have to state clearly wages and salaries funds from revised wages and salaries given the manner in which they opined, the government has skillfully hidden Finance resources. They party sees this as theft to hide money in such a way using sections of the budget.