Working towards deadline
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler is giving the assurance that Government is still working towards a June 30 deadline for the appointment of customs officers, and by extension the transition of the Customs Department to the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA).
However, he told Barbados TODAY that should the process not be completed by then he would seek parliamentary approval for a supplementary vote to continue to pay the customs officers “until such time as that process is completed and the transition takes place”.
“Our target date for transition has been set at the end of June. [That] is when the provision has been made in the Estimates for payment of the customs officers in their current designation, but that of course is contingent on that process being completed,” Sinckler said.
He said the process had already begun with interviews already conducted, persons shortlisted and some appointments have already been made.
The minister added that he expected the terms and conditions would be completed before the deadline.
“So it is a work in progress and the sooner it is done the better. Obviously the unfinished state of the business is affecting people at all levels and of course affecting the country’s capacity to protect its borders, to raise the revenue it has to raise through those means and so forth. So we want to make sure it is wrapped up as quickly as possible to the satisfaction of all involved as far as we can do that,” he said.
The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), the workers’ representative, has demanded that vacant positions be filled before the transition takes place.
The union also wants settlement of issues surrounding terms and conditions of work and pensions.
So far appointments have been made to the grade of Customs Officer 1, but the Customs Officer 2 and 3 grades are still pending.
Sinckler could not immediately say how many people have been appointed or how many positions have been filled.
In relation to the pensions, Sinckler said there was a “small amendment” to be made to a section of the Pensions Act.
“The Ministry of Finance has advised the Ministry of the Civil Service. They are aware of it. They agree, I think we all agree that the amendment has to be done to make sure that nobody is on less footing pension-wise than they would have been if they had remained in the public service,” he said.
He said the BRA and the NUPW would make an announcement on the terms and conditions.
Sinckler was speaking to reporters at the Casa Grande hotel on the sidelines of the 6th annual fun day organized for children of his St Michael North West constituency who sat the Barbados Secondary Entrance Examination last Tuesday.
The close to 300 children from Deacons Primary, St Stephen’s Primary and Eagle Hall Primary School, dressed in bright orange, blue and white t-shirts, enjoyed the St Philip facilities including bumper cart rides and bowling.
Sinckler said it was his way of allowing the students to “relax” and “get over all of the nerves they had for the exam”.