The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has finally received the $222.8 million needed for the payment of arrears of salaries and wages to its 9,000 monthly and daily rated employees.
The Ministry of Finance gave instructions to the Ministry of Tobago Development on July 4 to release $222,818,100 to the Assembly as part of the supplementary budget approved by Parliament a month ago. The cheque was received by the Assembly on Wednesday.
In addition, the Tobago Development Ministry was instructed on June 26 to release $87,487,500 to the Assembly as the final tranche for its development programme in fiscal 2013. This too was received on Wednesday.
However, an instruction from the Ministry of Finance dated June 2 to the Ministry of Tobago Development for the release of $341,937,263 for recurrent expenditure during the final quarter of fiscal 2013 was still outstanding. This sum is needed to pay salaries and wages to Assembly workers, as well as their national insurance and health surcharge. The money is also to be used for the purchase of goods and services and minor equipment for the period July to September 2013. An additional $14,324,960 for the daily-rated workers group pension plan “was withheld” according to correspondence from the Ministry of Finance.
Chief Secretary Orville London told Wednesday’s weekly post Executive Council media briefing that he didn’t know if the delay in releasing the final tranche to the Assembly was a deliberate act by the Ministry of Tobago Development.
However, he said, releases have been delayed over the last two and three quarters unlike previous years. He said the time spent after the approval of funds by the Ministry of Finance and their release by the Ministry of Tobago Development has been increasing; a blatant example of this was the release of the second tranche due in early January but only released after the THA elections.
He said the Ministry of Tobago Development was the sub treasury which only served as a conduit for the release of funds to the Assembly and he “didn’t think anyone should play politics with the lives of people”. “We should not play games with people’s lives,” he stressed.
London said now that the funds were available to the Assembly, employees will begin receiving their arrears by the end of this month. He added that because there were a lot of workers involved, it would take some time to pay all of them.