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Secretaries Answers to Questions


5. The Minority Councillor   asked the Chief Secretary:

“There have been several reports of delayed salary   payments to URP, CEPEP and daily rated workers. Given that these categories   represent the lowest income earners of the Tobago House of Assembly and   considering that many of these workers are owed outstanding salaries exceeding   one fortnight, would the Chief Secretary admit that his is unacceptable,   insensitive and callous?”

Madam   Presiding Officer, I am on public record as saying that it is unacceptable, it is insensitive, it is callous and beyond that, I have spoken to how vexing it is when workers are not remunerated on time. So yes, I will say it again.It is unacceptable, it is insensitive, and it is callous. Allow me, Madam Presiding Officer, to go further and to point out that one of the reasons why this Administration is pushing so hard at digitization and that we have asked all Administrators to revisit the ETA (the Electronic Transmission Act 2012  that speaks to digitization), is so that we could prevent and stop once and for all, a long standing pattern of employees being paid late.

     Allow me in my response to provide a recent example, as   recent as this week, Madam Presiding Officer. With the temporary employees,   everything was put in place for them to be paid. Monies were released to the   Division on time, scheduled for payment. Yesterday, while payments were going   according to schedule, we were informed (the Executive, that is) that a   salary clerk had on her desk, sheets that did not make their way through to   ‘Zalamazoo’. They were just on her desk and of course, those who were on   those sheets, almost a hundred of them - no cheques were prepared for them.   Why? According to the salary clerk, it was an error. The time sheets were   just on her desk sitting there taking a break, perhaps taking an early   Christmas. So, we had to work with Accounts to work overtime to be able to   process the salaries for these Employees and this is not a one-off   occurrence, unfortunately, Madam Presiding Officer. It is one of the reasons   why digitization has to be used as a response to the inefficiencies in the   public system.


Minority Councillor.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer - a follow-up question.

The Chief Secretary would have outlined an issue that   occurred this week, and I think even previously, the Chief Secretary would   have indicated that public servants seem to be the issue in relation to the   late payment of the Unemployed Relief Programme (URP), the Community-Based   Environmental and Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) and other   daily related workers.

However, Madam Presiding Officer, in a previous incarnation,   the Chief Secretary made it clear, that when issues like these occur, we are   not to blame the public servant. He used some adjectives to describe the   politicians, and he quoted section 37(1) of the THA Act, which relates to   Secretaries having general direction and control for the Divisions.

In a situation like this, Madam Presiding Officer, how is   it that the Chief Secretary is   not now accepting responsibilities for this issue, but rather throwing public   servants under the bus?

Can I have the question? I do not think that was a   question; it was a statement.

How is it then, that the Chief Secretary knew that section   37(1) was pertinent to the issues faced by the past Administration. However,   now under this Administration, all the issues seem to surround the work of the   public servants, and no responsibility seem to be accepted under section   37(1) in this new incarnation for all these issues, particularly in relation   to the late payment?

Madam Presiding Officer,   I have gone beyond taking responsibility. I have apologized to workers and I   have also just indicated the steps that this Executive Council is taking to   permanently remedy the situation and to ensure that there are fixes to the   public system that is inefficient as it is.

Minority Councillor, are there any follow-up questions?

No, Madam Presiding Officer.

Thank you.

Assemblyman Duke.

Madam Presiding Officer, permit me to read my question for oral answer to the   Chief Secretary.

Before we continue, I will just remind persons that regarding Standing Orders  towards the Chief Secretary questions - it is twenty (20) minutes allotted.

Continue, Mr. Duke.

On certain order, I should sit down if the twenty (20) minutes have elapsed.

We have literally five (5) minutes.

Well, I will not ask any questions if - that is unfair to   the people of Tobago...

We have five (5) minutes, Mr. Duke. use a twenty (20) minutes period when I have three (3) questions to be answered.

We have five (5) minutes in which to do so.

What does that mean?

You can go ahead, Mr. Duke. That is what I am saying -   proceed with your questioning.

The Minority Council answered their questions, unlimited. They had rebuttals, etcetera. Now I am told five (5) minutes. If I take five minutes...

Mr. Duke, I am not denying you the opportunity to ask your   question to the Chief Secretary.

As I do at every Sitting, I let persons know of their time   limit.

I just want to have that placed on the record of the Hansard,   that you allowed me to ask all my questions.

You are allowed to ask your questions.

Thank you, very   much, Madam Presiding Officer.

I wish to read my question so there would be no confusion as to what

There is no need to read your question according to the Standing Order 26.

There is no need, but I just wish to read my question,Madam Presiding Officer. It is a choice I made.

12th Plenary Sitting Tobago House of Assembly 2021 - 2025 Session


22 December 2022
Supplemental question to the main question :
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