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Region Two pays 123 additional staff in 2018 but clueless where money came from

Was it savings from transferring staff from contract to the pensionable establishment? Was it a matter of overbudgeting? Or could it be a breach of the Procurement Act?

These were the answers members of the Public Procurement Committee (PAC) toyed with on Monday as they sought a plausible explanation from the Regional Administration from Region Two on how some 123 staff who were unbudgeted for in 2018 were paid.

According to the 2018 Auditor-General Report, some $1.8 billion was budgeted for employment costs for a staff complement of 1,373.

However, at the end of 2018 amounts totalling $1.8 billion were expended for 1,496 staff, some 123 staff more than was budgeted for.

Regional Executive Officer for Region Two Susanah Saywack could not say how the payments were done although it was clear that the funds did not come from the Ministry of Finance to pay the additional staff as is customary for unbudgeted employment costs.

Finance Secretary Sukrishnalall Pasha in seeking to explain how the region was able to pay these additional staff without additional funding and possibly without approval from the Ministry of Finance said it seems to be savings incurred from moving contract employees to the pensionable establishment.

Pasha said the query is the same as the other administrative regions in the AG report.

“It seems persons moved from contract to permanent establishment had a lot of savings. For this reason, more persons were recruited and they still had money. That is based on my assessment on the regions. It appears they hired more persons and were spending less because they moved people to the permanent establishment,” Pasha reasoned.

Other members of the PAC agreed that moving persons to the pensionable establishment would free up monies for other uses since the two-time yearly gratuity will no longer be paid.

But the Regional Administration had no data to show how many persons were moved from contract to pensionable establishment in 2018 and the savings derived from such a move.

Member of Parliament David Patterson said it was a “logical and practical explanation” but Minister of Public Works Juan Edghill believes it could have been an overbudgeting for employment costs or a plain breach of the Procurement Act since the funds for unbudgeted employment costs should have come directly from the Ministry of Finance.

The AG’s Office was also called upon to say why the query is repeated in the report when it may be a regular occurrence.

The Estimates of Expenditures for 2018 also could not confirm the staff strength for 2018.

In the end, PAC members agreed to write a letter to the Director of Budget seeking an explanation and for that office holder to provide clarity on this query.

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