by Shawn Cumberbatch
Follow the rules or suffer the consequences!
That sums up the stern advice the Ministries of Finance and Civil Service have delivered to Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Departments as Government’s millions of dollars in budget cuts kick in this week.
This has emerged from two separate circulars transmitted last week by Acting Director of Finance and Economic Affairs, Martin Cox, and Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Civil Service, Alyson Forte.
And the August 26, 2013 pieces of correspondence have also suggested that job losses in the public service are not off the table.
Ever since Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Chris Sinckler, delivered his Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals on August 13, speculation about the impact of these austerity measures have been rife.
But if there were doubts that the cuts affecting the civil service and wider country were serious, the circulars from Cox and Forte have put it in black and white.
In his three-page circular, Forte made it clear that not following the various “human resources measures” was not an option.
Referring to the budgetary measures in his correspondence, he told the senior ministry and department officials:
“It must be emphasised that ministries, departments and statutory boards who hire staff in breach of this policy will not receive the necessary resources to cover the salaries of these persons if they are not accounted for in the system,” the PS stated.
“Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Departments should note that requests for permission to fill critical posts within central government must be submitted to the Chief Personnel Officer, Personnel Administration Division, no later than eight weeks before the date on which the assignment is expected to commence.
“In this regard, I am directed to inform you that the following information should be submitted in making requests to the Chief Personnel Officer: (i) Justification for the request to fill the post(s); and (ii) Comfirmation that funds are available under Other Personal Emoluments to meet the cost of the post(s),” Forte added.
He said the measures were “in keeping with Government’s policy for limiting major job losses in the public service, adding that “where necessary and appropriate, statutory boards are encouraged to explore programmes for regulating work hours among staff since retrenchment should be a last resort”.
The belt tightening was also emphasised by Cox in his circular issued the same day as Forte’s.
He made it clear to the permanent secretaries and heads of departments, who have statutory responsibility for their organisation’s spending and other budgetary issues, that the Ministry of Finance would not be compromising on its measures.
“You should advise the entities for which you have responsibility that if the instructions of the Ministry of the Civil Service are not followed the Ministry of Finance will not provide any additional funds to cover the salaries of persons who cannot be accounted or in the system,” Cox said.
“You should note also that in order to monitor the performance of the statutory entities, it is expected that they would report monthly to the Ministry of Finance with bank balances, cash flow statements for the coming months and an aged payables listing being crucial information which must accompany the monthly reports,” he added.
In light of the difficult financial circumstances, Cox also asked ministries and departments “to review the programmes proposed for this financial year”, and that “any programmes which have not yet started and which are not critical should therefore be put on hold”.
On Tuesday after meeting with Cox, Forte and other officials responsible for personnel and financial matters, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said there is no need for alarm by temporary workers and the wider civil service.
“An analysis of the existing financial situation following the budgetary proposal which took effect from September 1, 2013, is being done within all the ministries and departments, with a deadline set for September 30. This information will be submitted to the Director of Finance and Economic Affairs,” he said.
Stuart said once that process was over “we will know what will be the real impact of the 10 per cent cut in Government’s expenditure on the emoluments of temporary employees, persons in acting positions and substitutes”.
“We will then know if anyone presently employed will be affected, but our preliminary analyses show no cause for undue disquiet,” he stated. [email protected]