By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
A FREE National Movement senator yesterday questioned increased funding in the Davis administration’s 2022/2023 Budget for contract workers.
Senator Darren Henfield, former Foreign Affairs Minister, raised the concern in the Senate.
“You’ve increased by quite a few bucks. Let’s look at contract workers. Can we have an explanation of the contracts?” the former Minister of Foreign Affairs asked.
Attorney General Ryan Pinder answered: “So, there would be an increase in contract workers’ allocation as you point out. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the other place would have said there’s a desire and a plan to open up some new missions and consulate offices abroad.
“Certainly, within the first instance, there’s a Toronto office scheduled and then I think he also may have spoken about Houston and possibly a Los Angeles office scheduled and this increase provides for the additional staff in various missions and a new consulate office in Toronto.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell had said earlier that along with new hires, the government was looking at opening consulates in Toronto, Los Angeles, Dubai, Jamaica, Trinidad and Panama.
However, Senator Henfield pressed further: “We have to draw attention to the line item. It is a $3 million increase. Last time, we spent $608,000. We (are) spending $3.4 million. It ain’t no $900,000.
Mr Henfield also questioned contract workers at the Ministry of National Security.
“We spent $682,000, a projected $48,000. We’re now projecting to spend $953,000. The Ministry of National Security needs all the help in the world it can get, but can you say what kind of workers we’re hiring here on contract?” he asked.
For his part, Mr Pinder explained that this was to accommodate new staff salaries in the Ministry of National Security as they roll out different programmes to address crime and national security to the country in specialty strategies.
“You know we’ll have to hire on a non-permanent basis certain employees to help roll these strategies out where there are community based strategies or otherwise and this is supposed to support that.”
But Mr Henfield was left wondering about specifics.
“What kind of strategies are you talking about? You mean like crime interrupters? Explain that a little bit more,” he said further.
“He is hinting at the controversial appointment of former senator and talk show host Rodney Moncur at the Ministry of National Security as an independent contractor as a violence interrupter,” Mr Pinder said.
“The urban renewal activities are partnered with law enforcement and so you would need staffing from both national security as well as from social services to properly address the community policing and assisting the community on that side,” he went on.