Government Must Return Critical Staffing & Salary Documents To The 2015/2016 Fiscal Budget

OURMONEYLast year, I revealed to the country that in an unprecedented and historic move, the government stripped the Bahamian people’s annual fiscal budget of its standard staffing and salaries documents known as the Personal Emoluments section of the budget. The Personal Emoluments section of the budget details the staff count in each government department or Ministry, their salaries, what they are hired to do and promotions, re-classifications or transfers where applicable in the Public Service. The documents enable the Parliament and the public to track how many people are either being added to or taken out of government departments and Ministries, how much they are being paid and what they are being paid to do. Such documents are a critical transparency and accountability facet of both the budget process itself and the presentation of the budget. After I revealed this to the country, several Opposition members later followed suit on what I revealed and made mention of it during last year’s budget debate. The Prime Minister and Minister of Finance responded, saying the government would place the documents his government stripped from the budget on the government’s official website. THAT NEVER HAPPENED. Continue reading

What’s Going On With These Matters? A Matter No Longer Making Headlines Doesn’t Mean The Matter Is No Longer Important

WhatsGoingOn#1 – Fuel surcharge on oil makes up the majority of our electricity bills each month. If oil is still going to be used by BEC for power after privatization, and there will be no company competition or alternative energy sources, a foreigner coming in to own, manage or operate BEC does not automatically mean our power bills will magically become cheaper. The government repeatedly refuses to reveal any details about its plans for BEC, including details on this critical issue of how foreign involvement will benefit Bahamians, the economy & the environment. Continue reading

Is The Treasury Low Or Out Of Cash & Has The Gov’t Exhausted Its Treasury Overdraft?

OURMONEYFrom early last year I pointed out that if you see the government is not making its standard payments of salaries, utilities and operational expenses which are fixed costs allocated in the Budget each year, you must ask the question of whether the Treasury is low or out of cash. If the Treasury is out of cash, that would be why the Treasurer and Public Service is unable to make these payments – payments public officers, utility companies, local creditors and service providers throughout this country know have been delinquent and/or late over the course of well over a year. This is how the process works: the government does not have to grant permission for fixed salaries and bills to be paid. Once the amount is due, the check is cut and the monies are paid – UNLESS THERE IS NO CASH AVAILABLE TO PAY OUT. Continue reading

Budget Tales Part 2 – Lies They Tell & No Projects For Money

ACCOUNTABILITYTAX COLLECTION – The government said they expect to collect multiplied millions MORE in customs duties and Real Property Tax this year, claiming that the Department of Inland Revenue would be among the areas used to strengthen property tax collection measures. Well then why did the government cut both Customs and Inland Revenue by over a half-million dollars each in this budget? For Customs, the money was cut from its Management System and its computer systems and equipment, and a majority of Inland’s budget was cut from manpower. How are you going to collect more taxes through these agencies if you are cutting funding from both agencies, and in the areas the agencies need to collect the tax revenue in the first place? Continue reading

$49 Million Budgeted For New Contract Workers – But Deleted Budget Documents Prevent Us From Knowing Details About These New Contracts

OURMONEYA staggering $48.9 million EXTRA has been budgeted this year for new contracts/contract workers. Almost every government Ministry and Department has hundreds of thousands to multiplied-millions in increases for these new contracts. The highest allocations include Tourism ($6.7 million); Finance ($5.5 million) and the Ministry of Grand Bahama ($1.2 million). In addition to the staggering level of this overall increase, the other major controversy is that since the government has stripped the 2014/2015 Budget of its salary & staffing documents (Personal Emoluments documents), we are unable to know how many new people are being hired for this money, at what salaries and to which positions. Continue reading

Minister Admits To Govt’s Deliberate Removal Of Critical Accountability Documents From The 2014/2015 Budget

OURMONEYI see that Minister Halkitis finally responded to my article on the government stripping the Budget of its standard salary and staffing pages. His explanation? They removed these documents to make the Budget “more user-friendly”. Typical response from a government that believes every single Bahamian is stupid, and a government that believes the Opposition won’t do a thing. The only “user” the Budget is now “more friendly” for is the government, who removed these documents so that the Parliament and the country can no longer know and track line by line what is happening with the salaries of Ministers and public service employees, as well as the staff count in each Ministry and Department. Continue reading

Higher Education Slashed In The Budget & The Major Budget Changes With COB & The PHA That Have Been Completely Misrepresented

ACCOUNTABILITYI begin by highlighting that the government has cut $3.2 million from COB’s allocation and over $1 million from BTVI┬áin the 2014/2015 budget, bringing the total cut from higher education at COB over two budget years to over $6.7 million. At this rate, the government is moving to cripple higher education. Meantime in this year’s budget, the government put the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) into the Ministry of Health, and put COB and BTVI into the Ministry of Education, meaning none of these areas have a separate budget of their own anymore. The problems here are these: COB is autonomous in law. If as Minister Halkitis says, the Ministry of Education is “now responsible” for COB, that can only happen by an Act of Parliament, that cannot legally happen just because a Minister gets up and says it. Continue reading

Critical Salary & Staffing Pages Missing From 2014/2015 Budget

OURMONEYIn EVERY annual budget, each ministry or department has a main head salary and staff document page that lists the individual salaries of the Ministers, Senior Public officials and all employee groupings, as well as any changes in those salaries and number of persons employed. In this Budget FOR THE FIRST TIME, THOSE PAGES ARE MISSING – such that you are unable to see and know any changes in salary for Ministers or employees, as well as any changes in the numbers of persons employed in each Ministry and Department. It is not possible to analyze the Budget and know what the specific salary and staffing changes are with these budget pages missing. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? THIS IS NOT A CLERICAL ERROR MINISTER HALKITIS, SO DO NOT BOTHER COMING WITH THAT STORY AGAIN. EACH OF THESE PAGES WOULD HAD TO HAVE BEEN PHYSICALLY REMOVED FROM EACH OF THE 74 HEADS (Ministries & Departments) OF THE RECURRENT BUDGET AS THEY ARE A STANDARD PART OF THE BUDGET. Continue reading

Budget Tales – Part 1

OURMONEYSPENDING INCREASE – The government says it plans to reduce our now record debt to GDP ratio (60.9%) and rein in spending – but the 2014 budget says the government actually plans to spend $86 MILLION MORE on Recurrent Account in this upcoming budget year. The Recurrent Account is what pays things like salaries, operational expenses, travel, utilities, etc. And while the government all year long has boasted of major recurrent spending cuts it has carried out, the 2014 budget’s tables show that government spending only decreased on paper by $17 million in 2013/2014, which is not even near a 1% decrease in overall budgeted spending. Continue reading