Public Services and National Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
AN estimated 70 per cent of the contracts awarded to persons for government employment under the Christie administration did not go through the Ministry of the Public Service, Garden Hills MP Brensil Rolle said yesterday.
Mr Rolle, who is the minister responsible for National Insurance and the public service, told Parliament this allowed Cabinet ministers to act “willy-nilly”.
He said at the end of the Progressive Liberal Party’s last term in office, 9,000 people were added to the public service.
Direct hiring to the Departments of Customs and Immigration, Mr Rolle also said, was done without consultation of the public service. In 2016, 114 customs officers were hired along with 217 immigration officers between March and April of 2017 and were told to report for duty without letters of engagement, the MP said.
The majority of them were just vetted when the Minnis administration took office, he said. However, according to Mr Rolle, around 50 of these persons have not been able to pass the vetting process. The government, he said, has been advised by police to not even consider them for engagement.
“Imagine, Mr Speaker working with Inland Revenue when they created that small revenue collection agency,” the MP said during his contribution to the mid-year budget.
“Four hundred persons in Inland Revenue were given contracts for six months. That was the life expectation of the persons employed in Inland Revenue.
“Now because individuals’ contracts expired in their period and the government perhaps did not renew the contracts, they are saying that this government fired and terminated. They had all those rights to make those persons permanent and pensionable to give them a yearly contract. They had the right to do anything.
“They could have done what was done for the person at the Bridge Authority and said if the government wants to part with you they have to give you three years’ notice before. They could have done that but they chose to give them six months and when the contracts expired, because some of them were not renewed, they turn around and said the government is insensitive.”
Mr Rolle was referring to a contract given to a Bridge Authority executive outlining no fixed termination date and specifying there was to be no less than three years’ notice in the event of termination. The Tribune revealed this back in January. The contract was worth $100,000. Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has said he will not honour the agreement, which he called questionable.
Mr Rolle continued: “My ministry has ascertained that there are nearly 70 per cent of the contracts created within the last five years under the PLP were not processed through the Ministry of Public Service.
“Mr Speaker this allowed ministers to act willy-nilly. They could do anything. They did not have to go to the public service to ensure that persons were properly contracted.”
Regarding hiring in the Customs and Immigration Departments he said: “Mr Speaker, several officers could not pass the vetting. The majority of the officers were vetted since coming to office and many of them went in the programme where they were told they were now a customs officer but the rules of engagement are serious. Having been vetted there are at least 50 persons from this exercise who cannot pass. The police recommended that we should not even consider them.”
He also said there were hundreds of people contracted to work with the Road Traffic Department under the same conditions.
However, Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin, who is also the former transport and aviation minister, denied this claim.
She also accused Mr Rolle of misleading the House when it came to hiring outside of the public service.
She said every ministry was a part of the public service and has a permanent secretary to execute certain functions.
On the background check issue, Mrs Hanna Martin said all persons entering the Department of Road Traffic were vetted, but may have been vetted subsequent to entering their programme. She said they would not have qualified if they were not vetted.
However, she admitted there were concerns with one or two individuals, but these issues were dealt with.