Is the Government able to make the back pay payments to public servants and if so, when?
That’s the question being asked by Opposition MP, Rudy Indarsingh.
In a statement on Monday evening, he said Prime Minister Keith Rowley and Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert both promised that the 37,000 public servants of Trinidad and Tobago will receive their sum total of $1Billion in back pay by Christmas of this year.
However, reports indicate that statements by an unnamed Permanent Secretary of a government ministry suggest that there is no money available to make back pay payments this year, and such a commitment cannot be materialised until next year.
It is also alleged by the President of the Public Service Association (PSA), Leroy Baptiste that the Prime Minister threatened the same unnamed Permanent Secretary with disciplinary action for stating that the Government would be unable to honour back pay commitments this year as promised.
Public Administration Minister Allyson West has since come out and said that monies are available for the payment of back pay this year.
Indarsingh said between Minister Imbert’s initial promise, the revelations by PSA President Baptiste and the puzzling statements by Minister West, the public is now left to wonder as to what is the real truth behind the back pay, and what is the Government’s real ability to make back pay payments and when.
“It is either that the Minister of Finance lied to the nation during the delivery of the budget or that the President of the PSA is now lying regarding his account of a Permanent Secretary’s concerns or that Minister West herself is lying now,” said Indarsingh.
He added, “What is flabbergasting is that both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, who himself is an everlasting Acting Prime Minister, are senior elected officials, and have both served in previous Cabinets in senior capacities. If anyone ought to have known about the requirements of any Government to pay back pay and the arrangements that ought to be put in place from a financing and operational point of view, it is the both of them.”
“It is therefore scandalous that these two supposedly senior persons in Cabinet seem to be found with their pants down together due to an extreme ignorance of how a procedurally regular exercise like back pay ought to work.”
Even worse, Indarsingh noted, are the allegations that the Prime Minister attempted to pass the blame for his own functional impotence on to a Permanent Secretary.
“This PM has moved from blaming Kamla and the Opposition to blaming the police to blaming the public and now, to now blaming a Permanent Secretary.”
He said this seems to be a classic case of cover-up, with the PNM Cabinet on one side, singing the same tune, and the PSA and the supposed Permanent Secretary singing on the other side from another tune.
Indarsingh said it is clear that in this season of Halloween, someone is trying to trick public servants and the public, and someone intends to treat them badly.