The New National Party government of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell is targeting May of this year to statutorise the Government Information Service (GIS) and the Government Printery, according to Minister for Legal Affairs, Elvin Nimrod.
Addressing last Tuesday’s weekly post-Cabinet press briefing, Minister Nimrod gave some insights into the thinking of the one-year old administration to end direct government control on GIS and the Printery, which services all government ministries and departments.
Plans to statutorise the two entities were first announced by Prime Minister Mitchell who is also the Minister for Finance when he closed the debate on the 2014 Budget in December.
Nimrod congratulated workers attached to the Printery for the excellent quality work done there and also commended them for their initiative in seeking the transformation from a direct department of government and into a statutory body.
He noted that the previous NNP government from 2004 to 2008 had purchased high-tech equipment for the Printery as part of the initial plans for statutorisation.
It is the hope of government, he said that the local private sector will soon source services from the Printery at a much lower cost and without having to outsource to any other place.
“We believe that is a very good move,” Nimrod said of the plans to turn the Printery into a statutory body.
A leading civil servant told this newspaper that the change of status of the Printery will be a costly exercise for the State given the large number of persons employed at the establishment.
Regarding GIS, Minister Nimrod said he believes that transforming this entity to an executive agency or statutory body would be much more efficient and functional and that it can realize a profit for the entity.
“…We hope by the end of May of this year that GIS would be fully transformed,” the senior government minister told the media.
According to the island’s Deputy Prime Minister, government is prepared to offer financial support for up to one year to GIS and the Printery during the transition period.
He disclosed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is charged with the responsibility of sourcing modern equipment for GIS as part of the plans to change its current status.
The government plan to statutorise some departments is aimed at providing some financial expenditure relief for the cash-strapped administration.
The Mitchell-led government has just started a three-year Homegrown Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in order to deal with a deteriorating fiscal situation in which the island has stopped paying its international creditors.
The administration has committed to signing a “Letter of Intent” with the
Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) to tap into funds to aid the ailing Grenadian economy.
As part of the deal, the Mitchell regime has agreed to introduce several austerity measures including huge hikes in property tax as it seeks to close a monthly budgetary gap of EC$15 million.
In arguing the case for statutorisation of some government departments, Prime Minister Mitchell has stated that his administration is looking at providing statutory atmosphere to institutions to give them the room and ability under proper guidance and policy so they will be able to expand services but at the same time reduce cost to government.
He said: “A lot of the stuff that go out of the country today (for printing) like Christmas cards, people send to Trinidad and all other places all kinds of services, wedding cards and so on, they should be printed here, the equipment is there, and the staff there (Government Printery) is competent”.
“A lot of the newspapers … goes off to Trinidad every week (to be printed). We spend a lot of money (in overseas printing), that money could stay in Grenada and provide more jobs for our people”, he added.
The Mitchell government has also announced that it will be undertaking a strategic review of existing statutory bodies to determine whether they should cease operation or merged with other entities in order to save money.