Oct 01, 2015 News
Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs, Vibert Arthur Welch, has revealed that the department responsible for overseeing the affairs of Guyana’s first people is currently without an assets database.
Welch was at the time providing information to the Commission of Inquiry, (COI) into the Public Service sector.
The inquiry is expected to conduct a detailed examination of how the salaries and wages of public servants are determined and allocated; review the age of public servants retirement and make recommendations, in this regard.
On Monday, Welch told Commissioners Harold Lutchman, Sandra Jones and Samuel Goolsaran, that he made the discovery when he inherited the position of Permanent Secretary, a few months ago.
The witness said that under the previous leadership “there should have been a general assets register, but there was none.”
As such, Welch said that it is unclear how the Department, formerly known as the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs was keeping records within the past 23 years.
However, the PS told the Commission that he has been working on compiling an assets register since taking office.
He outlined that the historic evidence suggests that all the regions would have received something from the Ministry, over the years.”
“So I have been asking the Toshaos and Community Development Officers, (CDOs) to give us, possibly the names and serial numbers of the machinery and equipment they have received.”
The witness told the COI that records keeping and assets management within the department are integral to its efficiency.
Welch was then questioned about his qualifications and experience in the public service sector, prior to his appointment as Permanent Secretary.
The witness told the Commission that he spent most of his working life providing service to the hinterland communities.
He listed Iwokrama, World Wildlife Fund, (WWF) and other international conservationist bodies among his work experience.
Welch said that he also worked as a Regional Executive Officer, (REO) in Region One for some time.
Welch was then asked specifically why he thought he was best suited for the position of PS.
In response, the witness said that he spent most of his life travelling to the almost every region, visiting Amerindian communities “throughout the length and breadth of Guyana.”
Welch further revealed that he has 46 years of experience working with Guyana’s indigenous peoples, learning their culture and even learning to communicate in the languages of the nine tribes.
“I thought that spending most of my life working Amerindian communities, I would have the knowledge and experience and would be able interact well with the indigenous nations,” he added.
Now, as head of the administration at the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs, he is tasked with budgeting, revenue collection, and general oversight of assets and responsibility for staff within the Ministry.
Welch said that his previous experience as REO gave him some leverage over the functions in the department.
As PS, Welch told the commission that he is the chief advisor to the Ministers of Indigenous Peoples Affairs. His job is to ensure that the all government policies are implemented.
According to him, meetings are held with the Ministers on a daily basis.
“We report on various aspects of the work, including matters coming out of the interior,” he said.
Welch told the Commission that he would interface with Minister Sydney Allicock, who has the chief position as Head of the Ministry as well as Junior Minister, Valerie Garido-Lowe.
“The idea is to keep everybody in the loop financially, administratively and otherwise.”
The PS revealed that if needs be, he would also take action and go into the field to conduct follow up work.
Prior to his appointment on June 24, last, Welch said that he was given a three- year contract from the Ministry of Presidency. The witness told members of the COI that he accepted the standardized contract.
He could not however recall the details of the agreement. He said that he believes that his payments emanate directly from the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs.
Asked about the problems associated with contracted Permanent Secretaries and more traditional ones, Welch said that it is the general idea that the contracted persons get better remuneration packages and more power than the traditional Permanent Secretaries.
The witness nonetheless stated, “When we met with his Excellency in June, he made it quite clear that there will no longer be political appointments. Permanent Secretaries will now be only public service and a public servant means that you serve the people.”
Questioned about his interaction with Public Service Commission, (PSC), Welch said that he would interface with the body on various matters including employment of staff and advertisements of vacancies.
Speaking specifically about the challenges associated with being employed as a public servant, Welch said that the task is ensuring that workers across the board are comfortable with their pay and working conditions.
“Then you will yield the best from them,” he added.
The PS then told the commission of some of the challenges faced by his department.
He advocated for considerations to be given to persons who work in the fields. Welch told the commission that the Ministry has over 40 Amerindian satellites under its supervision, in which workers are deployed.
As such, he said more consideration should be given in terms of the accommodation packages for field workers.
“Accounting for every cent that you send in the fields can be tedious task.” he said.
Jagdeo will make ayo sell ayo bodies to feed ya’ll pickney.
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