State Minister for Public Service and National Insurance Brensil Rolle speaks in the House of Assembly earlier this year.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
BRENSIL Rolle, Minister of State for the Public Service and National Insurance, said between December 2016 and May 2017, the public purse ballooned by $16,532,738 because of the Christie administration’s hiring of new public service workers during that period.
In June, he told Parliament the cost to Bahamians of such increases was $10,149,738.
The revision comes after he included more than 1,700 workers that were not in his original count.
Amid the Progressive Liberal Party’s criticism of the Minnis administration because of its firings of public service workers, Mr Rolle painted a picture yesterday of a public service where longstanding hiring rules were ignored or abused, especially in the lead-up to the general election.
People who thought they were hired never received formal indications of this, he said, causing them to suffer the humiliation of not knowing the status of their employment.
Mr Rolle said he missed the extra 1,700 people in his original count because “these are people who were sent to work but were not given a letter, were not told where they ought to go or what they ought to do.
“When the (member for Englerston) asked earlier whether we had terminated these contracts, as I said to her in a previous meeting, when you issue a contract for three months and it’s May, April, June, at the end of June there is a legitimate expectation that those contracts would’ve come to an end.
“If you have the power to issue contracts and you only issued them for three months and you realised how important those three months are to your personal existence in the political arena it lays the impression that you are only issuing contracts to secure votes and after the votes you go about your way, you are gone. These individuals sat around the Cabinet table. They could’ve confirmed these individuals, could’ve given them a one year contract. They chose to give them a three-months contract and now they come here and are pretending they don’t’ know what happened to these individuals. That is disgraceful; that is dishonest.”
When he talked in June about the increase in public service workers over the past five years, Mr Rolle did not, he said, include many immigration and customs officers.
He said yesterday that the former administration was not rigorous in choosing who could join these sensitive agencies.
“I did not include the 151 immigration workers in that account, neither did I include the 123 customs officers that were hired,” he said. “A responsible government would not take individuals off the street and place them in a space that is extremely sensitive as customs and immigration is, without having regard for a check, a simple vetting. I am told by the professionals in the service that they advised the government not to take this course but the class started for customs the Monday morning and persons were advised up to Sunday night, you are in that class, go in that class. The result of that was that some of the individuals who were placed in that programme, even though they had successfully completed the course, could not be recognized as customs or immigration officers; they’re called casual workers.”
Mr Rolle said the Christie administration’s actions lead him to believe that it “embarked on a mission to perhaps destroy the public service by creating a parallel public service.”
“This parallel system was created through the widespread use of hiring persons on contract at all levels notwithstanding the policy that people are hired on contract where their skills and experience cannot be found in the service,” he said. “This includes but certainly is not limited to the return of public officers who are paid their salaries which were more than their retiring salaries, plus a pension and a gratuity at the end of their pension. Imagine a retired permanent secretary who retired from the service making $70,000 a year. If they served for 30 years their pension would be $70k and they receive for example a two-year contract from the government. At the end of the contract they must receive a gratuity of 15 per cent. When I see members coming here jumping up saying we don’t care about the civil service, I just remind them that in 2008 the government of the Bahamas decided that you just cannot have both; you either had pension or gratuity, but you can’ have both.”