By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
THE Office of the Prime Minister has defended Cabinet’s decision to allow re-engaged retirees to receive a salary and their pension, saying the process will be selective, merit-based and infrequent.
Two retired civil servants have already been re-engaged, the OPM said in a statement.
The statement came after The Tribune reported that Cabinet, according to a leaked memo, has changed the official policy of the Minnis administration that prevented returning retirees from receiving a salary and a pension.
“As we transition into government, the Davis administration, like many administrations which preceded it, has decided to re-engage two former senior public officials out of retirement,” the OPM said.
“Their expertise and long years of experience in the public sector are invaluable in guiding us through the kind of systemic changes which we have promised to deliver for the Bahamian people.
“Along with their salaries, they are being paid the pensions which are due to them for their long years of previous service. The pensions are legally and rightly due to them for this past service and continues irrespective of future employment. This is not a new policy.
“This is not a policy under which scores of retirees will be brought back into the public service. The process by which such public officers will be engaged is selective. It is merit-based, and focused on filling assessed skills gaps, meaning that by definition it will be used infrequently.”
The OPM said despite the official policy of the Minnis administration, some returning retirees still received both a pension and salary under the former government’s tenure. This was done “with characteristic favouritism and complete indifference to ordinary Bahamians,” the OPM said.
“…They (the former administration) applied the policy just to the favoured few, cancelling it for all other workers. The Davis administration does not support the unequal application of this policy. This administration believes that all re-engaged public officers should be treated fairly and equally.”
Yesterday, former Public Service and National Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle said he could not recall his administration re-engaging retirees that received both a pension and a salary.
He gave examples of two senior retirees who were re-engaged by the Minnis administration, David Davis and Harcourt Brown. He said both men, who worked in the OPM under the previous administration, were hired on the condition that they stop receiving their pension.
“I don’t know of any other person or group who may have been re-engaged in those conditions,” he said.
He argued that it is costly to let people collect a pension and a salary and it puts current senior public officers at a disadvantage.
“Let’s say you’re a permanent secretary,” he said. “Let’s say your salary as permanent secretary was $80,000. Are you saying to me that if I retire and come back now that you’re going to pay me $150k or more? The challenge is that the serving permanent secretary, they’re now going to be measuring their job status.
“Let’s say I’m a permanent secretary, I have responsibility for the Ministry of Public Service and my salary is $75,000; so here’s my colleague who is a retired public servant who is now a permanent secretary and since they are now able to get their salary that they retired with plus the new salary that they get you actually really almost doubling what permanent secretary A is getting compared to permanent secretary B.
“The second part of that is what it does to individuals who are aspiring to become the permanent secretary who are working and perhaps doing a good job. Now their opportunity is blocked.”
On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs and Public Service Minister Fred Mitchell said the Davis administration’s policy on the matter is the same as previous Progressive Liberal Party administrations. In 2017 when he announced a policy shift, Mr Rolle said the Minnis administration was reverting to the policy of the last Ingraham administration.
The Torchbearers Youth Association, the Free National Movement’s youth arm, criticised the decision yesterday.
“This policy of double dipping is reprehensible and should be reconsidered,” TYA president Carlyle Bethel said in a statement. “Scores of young people could be hired with the money the PLP will now give to the double-dipping, retired civil servants. Additionally, this practice will harm morale and hamstring the career advancement and succession planning within the civil service.
“The nation is allowing this administration time to get their agenda going. It is a concerning indicator of things to come, though, when one of the first orders of business is being in contravention of the promises made on the campaign trail such as investing in young Bahamians, and fiscal prudence. This is no new day. This is the same old PLP way of doing business,” Mr Bethel said.
• The print edition of this story incorrectly stated that David Davis and Harcourt Brown were re-engaged to work under the current administration. They were, in fact, re-engaged under the previous administration.