Government giving stronger oversight of Statutory Bodies

Government’s pledge to provide stronger oversight of Statutory Bodies is taking shape through the issuance of guidance notes, according to Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine.

The top civil servant in the Ministry of Finance, said that as part of the oversight, Statutory Bodies now have to consult with government on salary negations but it is not geared at having a wage freeze.

However, Antoine told a radio programme that all salary negotiations must consider that increases in salaries and benefits should not outstrip growth in revenues, and should make adequate provisions for pensions and for capital needs.

He said negotiations have to also centre around inflation, and the ability to pay the increases that are granted.

Antoine declared that government is not imposing a wage freeze on Statutory Bodies, except where some of them are wholly dependent on the State for a subvention.

He pointed out that Statutory Bodies like the Child Welfare Authority, and the T.A Marryshow Community College (TAMCC) that are completely dependent on government for their income to meet their expenses cannot proceed to give salary increases when Central Government is not offering wage increases for public officers.

“Wherever you’re getting a subvention, the wage freeze will apply.
Where you’re not getting a subvention, there will be no wage freeze, there will be negotiations, and those… will be guided by certain things which we provided for in the (Guidance) notes,” he explained.

Government currently has a three-year wage freeze on public servants which began in 2014 as part of the so-called self-imposed Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to deal with a severe fiscal problem.

Antoine disclosed that one aspect of the Guidance notes indicates that all salary proposals must first be discussed with the Ministry of Finance for finalisation.

This, he said does not mean that government is directly taking over the negotiations, “but we are providing clear guidance for those negotiations.”

According to Antoine, the key principles of the guidance notes are fiscal sustainability, and transparency.

“Just as the government has to be more accountable, so too the Statutory Bodies,” he stressed.

A Letter of Expectations providing clarity of their functioning was issued to the Statutory Bodies by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell in his capacity as Minister of Finance during a meeting held with them on March 10.

Antoine said the Ministry of Finance has already held meetings with the Grenada Trades Union Council (GTUC), and the main unions representing public sector workers to discuss the issues, and to hear their concerns.

He said one of the major concerns coming from the trades unions is the delays in settling and finalising wage negotiations.

The Permanent Secretary of Finance said that a request by the unions for the implementation of the Guidance notes to be delayed until the completion of the current set of negations with government has been turned down.

Antoine said “if we don’t look after the Statutory Bodies, they are going to undermine Central Government.”

“The idea of stronger oversight is to make sure that the government holds them accountable in the same way that the government is itself being held accountable by the nation, and through the various mechanisms… the Fiscal Responsibility Law, the Monitoring Committee… and a range of other things,” he said.

Speculation is rife that the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) which has oversight over SAP has played a significant role in the drafting of the Fiscal Responsibility legislation to bring the Keith Mitchell-led ruling New National Party (NNP) administration in line with its spending.

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