‘Stop the payroll’ for questionably absent public servants – Teixeira tells Gov’t agencies
Overpayment continues to be a problem across government agencies where millions of dollars are hemorrhaged from the public purse annually to pay workers who are no longer in the employ of the government.
But Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Gail Teixeira believes that quick action by administrative and finance staff within government agencies could arrest the problem.
Speaking as a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Friday, Teixeira joined with her colleague Members of Parliament (MPs) to raise serious concern over the issue.
The matter came up during a review of the Auditor General’s report on the Ministry of Health. It was found that during the year 2016, amounts totalling $1.7M were overpaid as net salaries to 16 employees.
This has been a recurring issue across government agencies with Permanent Secretary (PS) Malcolm Watkins offering an explanation akin to previous explanations that the overpayment occurred due to pay change directives not being forwarded in a timely manner to the Central Accounting Unit of the Ministry.
Former PS Trevor Thomas said the overpayment occurred in many instances because of employees who quit without properly resigning. As he puts it, they simply walked off the job.
But Teixeira was not accepting of the explanation as it was hinged on a delay in reporting resignations to the finance department.
“Stop the payroll if the employee does come to work for three days,” she said. This should be done in the absence of a document for excuse because the employee is unwell or otherwise unable to attend work, the Minister clarified.
“We have to be structured and systemic… I keep hearing ministries say people walk off and we can’t do anything about it. There is means and ways that the PS can say to the finance people that the following people are not here and stop the payroll,” she added.
According to Accountant General Jenifer Chapman, there exist mechanisms at the Ministry of Finance where before the payroll is finalized, payment to any employees can be withheld if the PS writes to the Accountant General.
There is an additional safeguard where before salaries are placed into the accounts of employees, it can be stopped by the bank as well.
PS Watkins said that the system, as it is, was bureaucratic and efforts were being made to address that.
Advice is also being sought from the Attorney General Chambers on steps that can be taken to recover the overpaid sums.