BRA move on!
BRA moving ahead with Customs transition, despite stiff Opposition
Acting Comptroller of Customs Annette Weekes will have no role to play in the soon-to-be reconstituted Customs & Excise Department (CED), but neither she nor any of her current subordinates are to be transitioned at any less favourable position than they presently enjoy.
This is in terms of salaries, allowances, pensions and other benefits, as well as general conditions of service.
Details of the changeover are contained in an official document prepared by Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), which seeks to explain key aspects of the transition.
Barbados TODAY has obtained a copy of the report, which both asks and answers many of the questions surrounding the imminent changeover.
With just over a month to go before the BRA move, Customs officers and their unions have been bitterly complaining that they remain in the dark over key aspects of the process, which is to result in the establishment of a new revenue collection and enforcement unit, under the BRA umbrella, called the External Taxes and Border Control Division.
It will be headed up by a new Director, who is to be appointed from within the ranks of the CED and will report directly to the Revenue Commissioner Margaret Sivers.
Despite stiff opposition on the part of some officers, who have been on a go-slow since Wednesday, and calls by the unionized workers – whose loyalties appear to be split between the National Union of Public Workers, the Barbados Workers Union and the fledgling Unity Workers Union – for Government to push back its implementation, which was originally scheduled for April 1, BRA is said to be moving full steam ahead with its plans.
Barbados TODAY also understands that a new director, who is said to have the requisite experience and specialized knowledge, has not yet been officially appointed. However, that person will be supported in their elevated role by a senior manager and three other divisional administrators, while the position of Comptroller of Customs is officially retired.
Weekes, meanwhile, is now destined for transfer to another administrative position within BRA with her appointment already said to have been approved by the Ministry of the Civil Service, which was expected to give final approval of the list of officers for transition by the middle of May so that offer letters could be prepared.
“Persons will be given two weeks in which to respond to the option letter,” noted BRA in the document prepared ahead of the July 1 move.
However, neither Weekes, who is to be compensated at the level of a deputy permanent secretary within Government, nor any of her current staff who agree to transition into BRA are likely to be disadvantaged in the course of the changeover, BRA officials assure.
The officers are due to retain their terms and conditions of employment as stated in Section (10) of the current legislation and also as outlined in the BRA Terms and Conditions of Service.
In terms of salaries, they will also “not be paid less than what they are currently receiving,” the BRA report clearly states.
The BRA document further assures that officers will receive their pensions and increments as due.
However, under the new External Taxes and Border Control Division, the retirement entitlements will be treated as “a mixed pension, which is calculated and paid by the Treasury and the BRA reimburses the Treasury for its portion,” the document points out.
“For persons who are not yet vested, that is, they have not worked for ten continuous years in the Public Service, they will be part of the BRA’s pension plan and their years will count towards the total number of years worked if greater than three,” it adds.
Overall, the umbrella revenue collection agency is seeking a staff complement of 279, compared to the 300 positions which currently exist within the CED.
Appointed CED officers are to be seconded to BRA initially for a period of up to two years “as long as there are no adverse reports on the officers”, while those currently acting in posts will be offered a position at the acting level as long as the substantive holder of the post does not accept an offer to transition to the BRA.
“If an officer is acting in a position outside the CED and does not want to transition to the BRA, the position at the BRA will be offered to the person acting at the CED,” the document further explains, adding, “It should however be noted that this is only possible in general service posts.”
As for temporary officers who have been working for three years as at December 2007, they will be treated as though they were appointed, and will be offered a one-year contract during which time BRA will seek to confirm them.
“If they are not confirmed in the first group due to adverse reports, then they are given an additional six months to improve,” the BRA report states. “If there is no improvement they will not be confirmed and will be terminated.”
Should the substantive holder of a post decide not to accept an offer or indicates they do not want to be considered in the transition process, the position becomes vacant and the affected person appointed will be dealt with by the Personnel Administration Dept.