Shadow Junior Finance Minister, Juan Edghill Wednesday called on government to stop gold smuggling and stamp out claimed procurement fraud in order to find millions of dollars to pay increased salaries to the Joint Services and other government employees.
Contributing to the debate on the 2016 National Debate, he said even if the smuggling of 15,000 ounces of gold per week was true under the then People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration, it was up to the coalition-led administration to fix it. “Even if that was the PPP problem, let him fix it now,” said Edghill in referring to Finance Minister, Winston Jordan.
He said if the 780,000 ounces of gold are no longer smuggled, government would earn US$39 million or GYD$8 billion from a five percent royalty which go towards the payment of higher salaries to police, soldiers, fire and prison service personnel. “The Joint Services is not subject to wage negotiations with a union. Pay them now,” he said.
Edghill further contended that government address its own claims that GYD$28 million to GYD$35 million had been lost to procurement fraud and pay several other categories of government employees. “If it is true that 28 to 35 billion annually was lost to procurement fraud, this budget ought to have made fiscal space for another 28 to 35 billion to pay public servants so I am asking the minister to pay the teachers now, pay the nurses now, pay the customs officers, pay the public servants now a decent wage,” he said.
Turning his attention to contract employees, he charged that this category of workers has soared over the last nine months. He singled out the newly-formed Ministry of Public Telecommunications and Tourism where all 112 employees are contract employees.
Increases in the number of contract employees, he said, have been registered at the Ministry of the Presidency and the Office of the Prime Minister
He said allocations for contract employees at the Ministry of the Presidency soared from GYD$142 million last year to GYD$788 million for contract employees who now earn an average of GYD$427,000.
He said the estimates for the 2016 National Budget show that GYD$82.7 million have been allocated for contract employees, up from GYD$21.6 million in the 2015 budget. “These are all the political appointees, political hacks earning super salaries and are like parasites sucking the blood of the Guyanese people,” he said.
Finance Minister Jordan has said government could not pay the 20 percent increase in salaries to police becaus
e monies had to be found to bail out Guyana Sugar Corporation and pay rice farmers last year.