Late payment of salaries

Prime Minister Tillman Thomas should be commended for taking the high road and apologising to public officers for the late payment of their salaries at the end of August.

It took a big man and a real man at that to offer an apology to those civil servants who were left upset and annoyed at not getting their salaries on time.

This act on the part of the Hon. Prime Minister should be contrasted with the action of a previous Office holder who disgraced the Office of the Prime Minister and is still to apologise to the people for visiting the home of an international trickster and con artist to accept cash payments.

Prime Minister Thomas did not do anything personally wrong on the salaries issue, however, he did the honourable thing by offering an apology on behalf of his government to the affected public officers.

While PM Thomas is the most appropriate person to issue the apology, the fact remains that it should have come very early from the Minister of Finance, Nazim Burke.

THE NEW TODAY is not happy with the manner in which the ministry handled the issue in light of the failure of government a few months earlier to make the timely payments to workers at the end of the month.

The main players in the Ministry of Finance such as the Minister himself, as well as the Permanent Secretary, and the Accountant-General should shoulder some of the blame for the embarrassment caused not only to government but public officers.

These are the persons charged with the responsibility of managing the financial purse of the nation.

No one knows for sure at what point in time, if at all, the PS Finance and the Accountant-General would have sent the relevant signal to the Minister of Finance that the Treasury was not in a position to honour its commitment to the over 4000 plus workers on the payroll.

Even if that was not done, the Minister had a responsibility to have information in his position by the 20th of the month on the status of the public finances in particular.

If the situation is alarming then the matter should be brought to the attention of the Cabinet of Ministers so that the members would deliberate and take the necessary actions and decisions in order to ensure that monies are available to pay the wages at the end of each month.

As a matter of fact, the monies were eventually found and the payments were made. Why the need for such an embarrassment? The same approach that was used to find the money should have been activated at a much earlier period in order to deal with the situation.

It was very disrespectful of the Ministry of Finance to advise civil servants of the late payment of their August salaries, less than 15 minutes before the workers were about to leave their desks for the rest of the week.

And there were some workers who suffered the humiliation of attending at the commercial bank and having to be informed on the Public Address system then and there about the late payment of their salaries.

The Ministry of Finance should have been more sensitive to the plight of the workers employed by government and give them early notice of the difficulties being experienced in putting the system in place to make the payments.

It was a most awkward time for many workers since a vast majority of them were depending on their salaries to adequately prepare their children for the new school year that started on Monday.

The government has also been failing in its duties to inform the population about the perilous state of the nation’s finances and the millions that have to be collected to help service a national debt in the region of EC$1.8 billion.

This newspaper is fully aware that concerns have been expressed in the past about the failure of the current government to take the necessary steps to ensure that it limits possible acts of sabotage by persons who might be supportive or aligned to the former ruling administration.

There is evidence of former government officials getting on a very regular basis very sensitive and top-secret documents from inside the Ministry of Finance.

And these documents can only be accessible to very few public officers – not even Ministers of government have even seen some of these documents.

A case in point are some critical aspects of the 2012 budget that the Parliamentary Opposition had in its possession long before they were officially put out by government.

These documents were used by the NNP to adequately and fully prepare party officials to respond in Parliament to the 2012 budget as presented by the Minister of Finance.

Who are the culprits? That is a matter, which should attract the full attention of both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance.

Congress is now reaping the fruits from its failure to address certain sensitive positions in the Ministry of Finance and its inability to make serious re-adjustments to the system that was put in place by the former government to facilitate its manner of doing business.

With general elections only months away, it is now too late for the Tillman Thomas administration to fully address the inadequacies within the Ministry of Finance.

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