Government has sought to defend its position that the $4.4B voted for revision of wages and salaries cannot pay more than five per cent increase to public servants by saying that the allocation is also used for new recruits and promoted employees.
Former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran, has rubbished this explanation. He said that it does not have merit since every year the National Assembly approves of revised staffing tables for ministries, departments and regions.
Goolsarran in qualifying his pronouncement, used as an example, the staffing details for Office of the President under the accounting head, Presidential Advisory: Cabinet and Other Services.
According to the former Auditor General, the authorized staffing for 2012 was 176 while that for 2013 is 196, an increase of 20.
In terms of wages and salaries, the revised figure for 2012 was $331.1M while the budgeted figure for 2013 is $409.6M, an increase of $78.468 million.
Goolsarran noted that the five per cent increase in 2012, which works out to $16.6M, was met from the Ministry of Finance’s allocation since the revision of wages and salaries is budgeted centrally under the Ministry of Finance.
This amount would have to be added to the wages and salaries for existing staff members to arrive at the new figure for 2013.
The difference of $61.9M would therefore be to cover the wages and salaries of the additional 20 staff members.
He said that the additional cost relating to promoted staff members would have also been reflected in the budgetary amounts.
“Suffice it also to state that no ministry, department or region can recruit persons beyond the authorized staffing that National Assembly has approved…Therefore, the explanation that the salaries of new recruits are met from the allocation under revision of wages and salaries, is not a valid one.”
Goolsarran in his writings on the matter pointed out that the Union is obviously dissatisfied with the quantum of the increase which it argues continues to be arbitrary and a breach of the Collective Bargaining Agreement agreed upon with the Government.
He said the imposition of arbitrary increases is not a new occurrence which can be traced back to the mid-1990s, except for the 1999 Armstrong Tribunal Award which the Union claimed was partially implemented.
Goolsarran added that related to the issue of salary increases, are travel and meal allowances which have also not increased since then, despite a five-fold increase in the price of fuel in the case of the former, Goolsarran said.
“How are those public servants, who are required to be mobile in the execution of their duties, able to carry out such duties effectively?”
He noted that Government is contending that talks with the Union had reached a stalemate and that it has no alternative than to approve of the five per cent increase.
“How valid is this contention, given that for the last 17 years, salary increases have been an imposition and not subject to negotiation and agreement with the Union,” Goolsarran questioned.
According to Goolsarran, “the Government also argued that the issue is one of affordability and that its ability to offer a higher increase was affected by the budget cuts, particularly as regards the Amaila Falls Hydro (AFH) Project.”
Goolsarran pointed out that the implementation of AFH arguably would have seen subsidies to the Guyana Power and Light significantly reduced, if not, eliminated, thereby releasing funds for the payment of higher increases.
“However, AFH would have taken 40 months to build and therefore would not have had any impact until 2017.”
According to Goolsarran, the Opposition political parties, for their part, quite justifiably argued that the approved budget did not reflect any cuts in the projected revenue but rather in expenditure; and this would have resulted in the availability of more funds to pay salary increases.
Goolsarran added out that the current Auditor General’s report for 2012 for the Finance Ministry is devoid of any findings relating to employment costs, including the expenditure under the line item for revision of wages and salaries.
“One is therefore left to wonder whether the Auditor General was satisfied with propriety of the amount of $2.4B billion that was paid out in 2012 to meet expenditure unrelated to the revision of wages and salaries…
“Or, was it a situation where no tests were carried out in relation to this expenditure?”
Goolsarran pointed out that the Auditor General is required to examine in such manner as he deems necessary the relevant financial statements and accounts and to ascertain, among others, whether all moneys expended and charged to an account have been applied to the purpose or purposes for which they were intended.
“Funds can only be expended in accordance with the wishes of Parliament, and the Auditor General is by law required to ascertain that this is so…Where there is a violation, the matter has to be reported to the National Assembly…We therefore need to hear from the Auditor General.”
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