Monday, May 25, 2020
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Mitchell: Public service verification exercise farcical

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Senator Fred Mitchell yesterday called on the government to rethink its “farcical” employee verification exercise.

Mitchell said it is “ridiculous and laughable” to expect Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling, among others, to identify herself to the treasurer of The Bahamas or have her pay interrupted.

He said it is an “indignity” to require ordinary Bahamians to stand in a line to “prove who they are”.

In a letter from the Public Treasury Department, the government is mandating that all monthly and weekly employed public officers in The Bahamas, including people living overseas, senators and members of Parliament, take part in an employee verification exercise.

Failure to participate would result in an interruption of an employee’s salary, the letter said.

Included in the letter is a list of the verification centers.

“What is laughable is when you go down the list and see the centers, you will find that the center at C. R. Walker Senior High School is for the governor general and staff,” Mitchell said in a statement.

“Presumably, this means that Dame Marguerite Pindling, well known to all, the person who appoints the public servants, must now go to C.R. Walker to identify herself to the treasurer, or the governor general’s pay will be interrupted.

“She will presumably get on the line before the prime minister, the Cabinet, the senators and MPs, who will follow behind her with their documents. They are listed as being required to go to the same centers.

“This is farcical on its face. It is a bunch of bull, pardon the indelicacy.”

According to the letter, employees must bring either a Bahamian passport, Bahamian driver’s license, National Insurance Smart Card or a voter’s card.

The exercise started on Tuesday and will end August 31.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said the government wants to “identify all of the legitimate workers in the civil service, including contract workers, so that, at the end of the day, we know our payroll is accurate and that we are not paying persons who are not engaged in actually working for the government”.

According to Turnquest, the verification program is “done pretty much every five years”.

Mitchell said the entire process is “ridiculous”.

“Surely the government has taken leave of its collective senses,” he said.

“As a matter of law, if someone works for their pay, there is no basis on which you can deny that person their pay.

“Also in this day and age, the government can surely be more sensitive and respectful than arranging yet another indignity for ordinary people standing on long lines to prove who they are.”

Mitchell said lawyers have advised him that the government “has no basis to deny anyone their pay if they work for their pay, simply because they fail to comply with coming to some remote center in order to identify who they are”.

“The law is clear, though: if you do not pay people for their work earned, the government can face court action and damages for failure to pay,” he said.

“The government should seriously rethink this matter.”

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