Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
DEPUTY Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest pushed back yesterday against the claim of major public sector firings under the Minnis administration, saying 865 fewer people were employed in the public sector between June and December 2017. He said some of them retired, some had their temporary contracts expire and some were terminated.
"My point is that despite the fiction being perpetrated by the idle and indolent crew on the opposite side, there have been no widespread firings by the government," he said.
In January, the Department of Statistics reported that government jobs decreased by 2,555 between its most recent surveys in May and November of 2017.
This was widely interpreted to mean that most people no longer employed in the public sector during this time period were let go as part of the Minnis administration's effort to streamline the sector. Following that Department of Statistics' report, Attorney General Carl Bethel said the reduction allowed the government to save about $75m.
Mr Turnquest, nonetheless, provided statistics yesterday that painted a different picture.
He said: "We are systematically addressing the issue of temporary and contractual staff and the government is doing its best to place these contractual workers in areas where there is legitimate need. However, given our fiscal situation - and our still pressing need to recruit and retain professional skillsets into the public service -we will continue to review the status of all temporary employees and be judicious and fair in our dealings.
"In June 2017, the first full month after this government came to office--and after the increase in staff by over 2,000 in the final year of the former government, the treasury payroll processed salaries for 20,177 employees. In December of 2017, the treasury processed salaries of 19,312 employees - for a net downward movement of 865 fewer employees.
"Of that 865 downward movement, some 222 would be persons retiring and moving to government pensions. The remaining movement of 643 would largely reflect expired temporary contracts that the government chose not to renew, as well as resignations and terminations that are part of natural attrition in the government.
"My point is that despite the fiction being perpetrated by the idle and indolent crew on the opposite side, there have been no widespread firings by the government. The majority of the 2,000 plus persons brought on by the former government - and almost all of the necessary professional full-time staff recruited by the former government - continue to remain in the employ of the government. And, as we sort through the legitimate needs of the public service, we will give the current contractual staff in good standing the opportunity to fill those slots where there is legitimate need, ever mindful of the fact, however, that we are compelled to rationalise costs were there is no case to continue spending money. This we must do as the stewards of Bahamian taxpayer money."
In January, the Department of Statistics reported that the number of people employed in government or government corporations was 38,435, down from 40,990 from last May. Both numbers are far more than the 19,312 people for whom Mr Turnquest said the treasury processed salaries in December. The reason for the discrepancies was not clear yesterday.