Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite has reassured prison officers his office is working to rectify late payment and address outstanding promotions, even as he insisted that there are no layoffs planned for the service.
Brathwaite, who is also the Minister of Home Affairs, rubbished reports that prison officers would be included in Government’s retrenchment exercise as he delivered the feature address and responded to questions at the annual general meeting of the Prison Officers Association (POA) at Her Majesty Prison Dodds today.
“We are working really hard at trying to ensure that we address these two issues in particular – that is, to ensure people are paid in a timely manner and the issue of promotion so that we can fill the vacancies that are there,” he said.
Brathwaite said in April he was contacted by president of the POA Donald Connell who asked him to find some money to pay officers because they had not received their salaries.
“So I took it upon myself to write to the Personnel Administration Department because I wanted to find out once and for all as minister what has happened,” he said.
He said he was informed that there were a number of things that “causes some of the problems” they encountered from time to time.
Brathwaite explained that there was a long process that involved signing a form that must pass through about four different departments for approvals, due diligence and signing before being entered into the system.
The minister noted that the process was also being hindered because, in some cases, recommendations for temporary appointments were being submitted on “incorrect forms”.
In other instances several officers were being recommended for one vacancy and in other cases some recommendations were made “without the required justification why the post should be filled and confirmation of funds to be paid to the substitute officer.”
“To my knowledge, most of the individuals impacted up until the end of March should have been addressed,” he said.
“But I say to you officers, one or two of you will have problems from time to time.Don’t wait until things escalate. Advise us where there are issues like this so we can intervene, if at all, early. Don’t wait three months down the road and get up on May 31 and say authorities [are] taking three months and six months et cetera,” advised Brathwaite.
The Attorney Generalalso used the occasion to take issue with what he described as negative information about the prison service in the media.
“I did a Google search of the Barbados Prison Service and I don’t see any good stories. I see prison officer charged; I see stories of 38 prison officers to be sent home, which is actually very untrue because to my knowledge no prison officers have been sent home during the retrenchment period and we have no such plans.
“I see stories of prison officers bringing contraband in, but no good stories because you yourself don’t transmit the good stories. So maybe you can begin by creating a website,” Brathwaite suggested.
He also urged the management of the prison and the association to forge a closer relationship and start to transmit positive information about the penal institution.