By SANCHESKA DORSETT
Tribune Staff Reporter
DEPUTY Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest said yesterday said the government intends to honour the commitment made by former Prime Minister Perry Christie to pay overtime to Royal Bahamas Police Force officers but “some degree of borrowing would be required” for this to happen.
In an interview with The Tribune, Mr Turnquest, who is also minister of finance, said the officers will be paid, but he did not go into details.
“We intend to honour the commitment. Some degree of borrowing would be required to help the government fulfil its obligations,” Mr Turnquest said after a Cabinet meeting Tuesday morning.
Minister of National Security Marvin Dames also told reporters on Tuesday that the government is “committed” to paying the officers. However, he said, the Cabinet is determining whether there is sufficient money in the Public Treasury to cover the payments.
“Well, as I said, we have to look and see where it is that we’re at,” Mr Dames said yesterday morning.
“From the outside in, it’s very difficult to say whether there’s money or not. We will begin this process now of seeing exactly where it is that we’re at, what it is that we have, what are some of the challenges that we will face moving in, and we’ll take it from there.”
At a rally on April 27, days before law enforcement officers voted in the May 3 advanced poll, Mr Christie announced that the government will finally pay RBPF officers for working 12-hour shifts, with the first payment of the outstanding sum to be issued on May 29.
He said the second instalment in overtime pay would come “in the next budget cycle,” but Mr Christie was not more specific. He said officers who have died or are retired will be paid in full.
However, the PLP lost the general election to the FNM on May 10.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, speaking during a rally in the Central and South Eleuthera constituency in late April, said his party, if it won the election, would honour a court ruling and pay officers their overtime payments. In opposition at the time, Dr Minnis went on to suggest that in a last-ditch effort to win over the support of the law enforcement agencies, Mr Christie made the promise to pay on May 29 – after the general election.
Earlier this month, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham told FNM supporters at a rally that no matter which party won the election, the government would be unable to pay police officers overtime on May 29 because the money was not in the Public Treasury.
Last May, the Court of Appeal upheld a landmark Supreme Court ruling ordering the government to compensate police officers for working 12-hour shifts at different periods in 2013 and 2014. The RBPF introduced 12-hour work shifts for officers in an attempt to get crime under control in September 2013.
The appellate court had dismissed the government’s appeal against Supreme Court Justice Milton Evans’ ruling that a Force Order issued by former Police Commissioner Paul Farquharson in 2003 was relevant to the case as it mandated that public officers be paid when they work for more than 40 hours in a normal working week.
At the time, the PSA had estimated that if the choice is made to pay the officers, the government could end up paying as much as $16.4m in overtime pay. However, attorney Wayne Munroe, QC, who represents the PSA, said at the time that Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade would determine whether to pay officers or to give them a proportionate amount of time off.
The Supreme Court ordered that the compensation be received within a year.