PAC finds more employment breaches under former APNU+AFC gov’t

─ 89 staff hired under then Social Protection ministry to perform political duties

The former APNU+ AFC Administration has once again come under the microscope for allegations of misconduct related to the hiring of some 89 temporary staff to work at the then Ministry of Social Protection, who were instead deployed to perform political duties.

The 53rd meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday uncovered that these persons were employed in several positions, such as probationary officers, drivers, cleaners, and receptionists, among others.

Committee member and Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan Edghill disclosed that, “These persons were employed circumventing having to get an engagement that would allow them to become contracted employees or to be under fixed establishment. Both the personnel officer at the time and the permanent secretary at the time said that it was a policy decision to employ these 89 persons.

Outlining the procedure as it relates to the hiring of temporary employees, the public works minister said, “If you have, authorised for your ministry, about 15 drivers, and for some reason, two of them are on vacation, and you need to keep your vehicles moving, you don’t permanently hire two additional drivers, you hire two people on a month-to-month basis, so that when the substantive officer returns, you will no longer need these temporary people.”

The Minister of Social Protection at the time, Amna Ally, also served as the general secretary of the People’s National Congress, and a senior functionary of the A Partnership for National Unity.

The timing of the employment was also deemed questionable, as this followed the passage of the no-confidence motion in the run-up to March 2, 2020, General and Regional Elections.

“The big question that has to be answered is, were these people hired to aid the APNU+AFC in their election campaign to work as election officials, to work out of Congress Place or to work in the fields?” Minister Edghill questioned.

Former Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Lorene Baird explained that the action was prompted by the ministry’s policy.

But when questioned as to whether the policy decision was given in writing, or verbally, the former Permanent Secretary said she ‘could not recall’ the format of the policy.

“They are saying clearly that it was a policy decision. So, the professional staff was actually saying that temporary workers ought not to have been hired in the manner in which they were, but they were told to do it. This is exactly why the PPP/C has said that we want to examine 2019 and 2020 separately, because these were special years, and we need to go through these audited statements with a fine-teeth comb. So, this smokescreen of the continual crying of the APNU+AFC that they want more public accounts meetings to rush these things through to behave as if what happened in 2019 never existed…is not going to work,” the minister stated.

The public service rules dictate that requests for permission to employ temporary staff should be confined to instances where the work is of a temporary or seasonal nature or so urgent that it is necessary to employ additional staff temporarily.