PAC demands reform on leave pay

  • Strong recommendations: Progressive Labour Party MP Renée Ming expressed concern over the amount of time internal investigations of civil servants take to complete, leading to thousands being spent on leavepay (File photograph)

    Strong recommendations: Progressive Labour Party MP Renée Ming expressed concern over the amount of time internal investigations of civil servants take to complete, leading to thousands being spent on leavepay (File photograph)

Taxpayers forked out more than $300,000 for three public officers on administrative leave even though the misconduct allegations against them were ultimately dropped.

Progressive Labour Party MP Renée Ming expressed concern over such use of public funds as MPs discussed the matter in the House of Assembly yesterday.

Ms Ming, who was speaking as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, told MPs: “We are talking about a large sum of money from the public purse.

“As we know, money is not easy to come by these days.

Ms Ming explained: “We are scrambling to find money for various things.

“Especially because these cases were later overturned, we would rather not see ourselves go down the path again for that.”

She also noted that, while the Public Service Commission had overturned the cases, “there is no reason given as to why”.

“The Public Service Commission failed to provide the committee with an adequate explanation for their processes,” she said.

Ms Ming added that “given the failure to receive meaningful information from the PSC”, the time taken for the investigation and hearings by senior management appeared “too lengthy”.

She added: “Since it’s been determined there were infractions of the code of conduct, and that suspensions were appropriate, the next steps in the process should have been dispensed in a more timely basis.

“Timely dispensing of an issue would minimise the cost of leave.

Ms Ming added: “If something takes 15 months, the persons on administrative leave are still paid over that time.

“A shorter time frame should be in place — one month, two months. We don’t feel we should be going such lengthy periods when full pay is involved.”

Ms Ming also flagged up an additional $24,000 paid to public workers who had to be upgraded while other staff were placed on leave.

The St George’s MP was speaking after One Bermuda Alliance MP Patricia Gordon-Pamplin tabled a PAC report titled: “The processes involved in handling the cases of public officers placed on administrative leave.”

The PAC looked into 19 cases, from April 2016 to June 2018, in which officials went on leave while allegations of misconduct were investigated.

She said the total cost came to $568,339. The three cases that were overturned, which took place 2017, consumed 55 per cent of the funds.

The PAC held eight meetings, including with the permanent secretary for Public Works, the former acting director from the Department of Parks, and the chairman of the PSC, which oversees the management of the civil service.

Ms Ming said that the PAC investigated the issue because “the amount of public funds that had been spent triggered our senses”.

She said the PAC had “strongly made recommendations” for improvements.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin also tabled PAC reports on breaches of financial instructions and corrective measures.

Opposition MP Susan Jackson said financial instructions should be followed more closely, and that the group had met with the Ministry of Finance to discuss infractions. She told the House: “There is an infractions register that exists, whether there is a monetary loss or not.”

She said the register had not been used on a regular basis in the past — and that the PAC had decided to have “regular reporting” in accordance with the recommendations of the Auditor-General.

Ms Jackson added: “The register appears to be actively collecting data on any breaches of financial instructions, so the PAC is satisfied that this recommendation is now firmly in place.”

She said that there should be a binding obligation to follow financial instructions in contracts for Government employment, stipulating the possibility for disciplinary action for breaches.

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Published Nov 30, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 30, 2019 at 7:58 am)

PAC demands reform on leave pay

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