Research Assistant paid $325,000 + benefits by APNU+AFC; says it was a ‘basic salary’
A Research Assistant hired by the former APNU+AFC Government to serve in the Political Division of the then Ministry of the Presidency was raking almost half a million dollars in salary and other benefits on a monthly basis.
In a contract seen by News Room, Ronald Austin Jr. was being paid $324,586 per month, a $10,000 per month tax-free travelling allowance, government paid landline, cellular, and internet service, 22.5 per cent gratuity every six months, an annual vacation allowance equivalent to one month’s salary, and 35 days’ vacation leave every year.
The contract – which was signed by Austin Jr. and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency, Abena Moore – took effect from January 4, 2020, and expires on January 3, 2021.
The contract was apparently renewed since it was attached to an appointment letter which was titled “Renewal of Contract”.
And while Guyana’s minimum wage is pegged at $70,000 the Research Assistant believes that his salary was a modest one.
“I have worked my socks off for years. Sleepless nights in air, land and sea and hills, mountains and more. Region 1 to 10 with a basic contract and salary,” Austin Jr. wrote on his Facebook page on Monday.
He went on to register his concern about the absence of a meritocracy.
“It seems as if professionals are being sent a subtle message that you must join the party to get these fat salaries. Persons must be rewarded based on volume of work and a clear merit system,” he added.
The Research Assistant went on to question: “Why must we bow to the party? The only thing we must bow to is the Constitution and the people of Guyana who we serve in government.”
But Austin Jr., who is a known supporter of the APNU+AFC, was hired by that party after it came to office in 2015.
Austin Jr. had even secured a place in the state-controlled Guyana Chronicle, where he had a weekly column published during the APNU+AFC stint in office.
In 2017, Austin Jr. served as a Senior Education and Training Officer at the office of the Presidential Advisor on Youth Empowerment. In 2018, he served as Deputy-Director of Education and Training attached to the Department of Youth.
In 2019, Austin Jr. held the post of Senior Education and Training Officer, office of the Presidential Advisor on Youth Empowerment.
It is unclear whether Austin Jr. held more than one posts simultaneously, as the office of the Presidential Advisor on Youth Empowerment operated out of the then Ministry of the Presidency, and the Department of Youth was an arm of the Ministry of Education.
He remains in the employ of the new Government.
Since assuming office last week, the PPP government has exposed irregular and improper hiring patterns by the APNU+AFC between 2015 and 2020.
On Monday, News Room reported that the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development discovered some 56 persons who are on the payroll receiving about $13.5M overall per month since 2015 but there is no evidence or record of their work.
Two days prior, Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Ail Nandlall revealed that the APNU+AFC government had created a position – Director of Parks – for one of the members of the PNC, Larry London, and was paying him millions, even though he spent most of his time out of Guyana.
London was receiving a net salary of $500,000 per month, his electricity, internet and telephone bills paid for by the State, guards at his home, a driver and a car, duty-free allowance for the highest grade of vehicles, and a gratuity of 22.5 per cent every six months.