by Zena Henry
Finance Minister Winston Jordan has categorically denied claims by a pro-opposition newspaper that government intends to approve hefty travel allowances and he warned that former government ministers who have not cleared theirs would have them deducted from their salaries or pensions.
The former government themselves could come in for some inconvenience since according to Jordan a significant number of them still have outstanding travel advances not cleared with the treasury. He said too that no present minister has ever been given a contingency, but under the former government “multiple” contingencies were given to ministers.
To the outstanding advances, Jordan said that Attorney General Basil Williams has written to former ministers to clear their “long” outstanding advances, but the request is not forthcoming. He noted that government will make legitimate moves to recover the advances if they are not done willingly. This includes tapping into their salaries or pensions or other legal means.
The claims published in the People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-aligned Guyana Times newspaper that the government intends to increase travel benefits by some 100 percent and over, came days after the same newspaper had alleged that government wanted to also give themselves 100 percent and over wage increases.
The government had confirmed the increases, but denied the figures alleged by the newspaper. They also announced that despite it being important to update ministers’ pay, they would not be doing it this year.
Today the newspaper reported that government is said “to be favourably considering increasing the (travel) per diem from US$25 per day to about US$500 per day,” as “out-of-pocket allowance.” They said the new government is considering raising hotel accommodation allowance to approximately US$200 per day, while the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) comfortably accepted their US$150. Among other claims, the newspaper said government is thinking of putting in place a US$3000 “contingency allowance” for Government Ministers and Advisers.
However, when clarity on this matter was sought from Minister Jordan, he delayed with a hearty laugh, before stating that, “it is a big, fat lie.” He dismissed the entire article before declaring that, “none of it is true.”
The Minister, who remained quite relaxed despite the paper’s almost insulting revelations, said that it is all part of the tactic. “Haven’t you people seen it yet? It is one thing to the next. It is the kind of false information they (PPP) want to send to their supporters,” he claimed.
Minister Jordan said that there has never been any discussion on raising vacation allowances and their certainly has not been any consideration for the matter. Jordan said after he called the newspaper this morning, he could not get a meaningful answer for the “totally fabricated” story. He said he received excuses such as the editor is not in among others.
Jordan said that in speaking to the person who answered the phone, he explained to the newspaper in their “mischievous” articles are engaging in “filthy journalism.” Jordan said it is probably the second or third time he has called the paper about these articles and he does not expect a retraction since he did not get it in other cases. He said the lie about the 62 luxury vehicles, among others are still being peddled. “This is the classic PPP way of doing things,” he said calmly.