Blame the February 21 general elections for the non-payment of angry workers of the Drainage Division.
Just hours after the National Union of Public Workers threaten to demonstrate in front of Government Headquarters on Barb Street while Cabinet is meeting on Thursday, the minister responsible gave the assurance workers would be paid and explained the reason for the delay.
Minister of the Environment and Drainage, Dr. Denis Lowe said there was no shortage of money, but that administrative work that would have been necessary to keep the National Environmental Enhancement Programme running smoothly got caught up in the election cycle.
“It is totally untrue that the reason why members of the NEEP staff were not paid on time was as a result of the unavailability of funds or insufficient funds, or because Government was contemplating discontinuing the programme,” he said in a statement issued through the Barbados Government Information Service.
He stressed that it was not Government’s intention to do so, because it remained committed to public servants at all levels of the public service to ensure that they remained employed, and emerged from this difficult economic situation.
The minister explained that more than $9 million was approved in the Estimates this year for the execution of the NEEP programme, and another $2 million would be required later this year “to ensure the work associated with the programme and the Drainage Division was completed”.
The NEEP programme, he added, was originally designed to flow in two-year cycles. At the end of each period the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage would submit documents to the Ministry of the Civil Service asking for a renewal and extension of the programme for another two years.
“This time around there was a delay in the request,” Lowe added. “It was not any administrative glitch. It wasn’t negligence on the part of the public servants.
“It was simply that the renewal request got caught in the election cycle; it got caught in the Estimates cycle because you had to go to Parliament to get the funding for the programme approved through the Estimates; and it got caught in the end of the financial year cycle.”
He added that it was those three events combined that resulted in the “slight delay” in the submission and the processing of the information required to ensure that the workers’ pay would not be interrupted.
“Once the cycle has been fully renewed then it goes back to routine where on every pay day workers will receive their funds,” he said.
“We regret the inconvenience to our workers. We regret the fact that some persons would not have been able to meet their obligations on time. But our workers can rest assured that this Government is committed to ensuring that they have a pay cheque every single month, or [every] two weeks as the case might be, to take home to their families to ensure that they can put food on their tables, keep a roof over their heads, send their children to school and enjoy an enhanced life quality as a result of the creation of the NEEP programme.”