Concern over high number of acting appointments

Government is moving to regularize the employment situation at the Customs and Excise Department, where the acting Comptroller of Customs Annette Weekes and her three deputies, as well as five assistant comptrollers, are among a long list of officers who were yet to be confirmed in their posts.

Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler

While admitting that the current situation was “challenging”, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler said the outstanding appointments were currently before Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, in his capacity as head of the Ministry of the Civil Service, and he expects they would be settled shortly.

“It is a matter that we have raised and they [the Ministry of the Civil Service] are working on it. There are a lot of acting appointments down there [in Customs]. I know that Prime Minister Stuart is working assiduously to ensure that we can have some appointments, and I believe that there have been some movements recently in the past week to have people confirmed in particular positions. So hopefully in short order we will get some of those things settled, particularly at the higher echelons of that part of the [public] service,” he said, when asked to comment at the weekend on the situation with appointments at the revenue collection department.

Barbados TODAY has been reliably informed that of the 15 positions for Customs Officer 1, 14 are acting; of the 27 for Customs Officers 2, 18 are acting; and of the 65 for Customs Officer 3, 30 are acting.

Some of these officers complained that they had been acting for as many as five to six years, while junior clerical officers, who had been acting above their substantive posts by as many as three to four grades, were worried that they would lose out financially if they were asked to revert to their substantive posts.

“The maximum salary per annum of a clerical officer in the public service is $35 646.48, while a Customs Officer 1 earns a minimum annual salary of $52 371.00 and a maximum annual salary of $63 874.32,” one officer explained.

“This means that if a clerical officer has to return to his substantive post he stands to lose $16 724.52 per annum if we use the minimum annual salary for a Customs Officer 1. On the other hand, if we use the annual maximum salary of a Customs Officer 1, that clerical officer stands to lose $28 227.84 per annum if he is asked to return to his substantive position,” he added.

Another officer pointed out that a university graduate, whose substantive post was that of a clerical officer, was currently among those acting as assistant comptroller while the General Secretary of the Unity Workers Union Caswell Franklyn, whose union represents some of the affected workers, cited an instance in which a member of the union had been acting in a higher position for many years.

“She is more than qualified for the job, but they just would not appoint her,” he said, pointing out that under the Public Service Act Section (13) 11 no established post should remain vacant for more than one year.

“The Public Services Commission does not have the authority in law to put anyone to act in a position for more than one year without going through the process of interviewing them. Yet the civil service has workers acting in positions for three, four, five and six years,” Franklyn said.

He also expressed concern that with the pending change over to the Barbados Revenue Authority by April 1, 2015, “if you are in a job and you are acting in that job three positions higher than your substantive position and they offer you a job in the BRA and you refuse to accept, they can ask you to return to your substantive post in the Civil Service”. The National Union of Public Workers, which is bargaining agent for the Customs and Excise workers, is aware of the situation.

When contacted, acting General Secretary Roslyn Smith said the union had already written to the Ministry of the Civil Service on the matter but she said the Personnel Administration Division had put a halt to appointments pending the transition to BRA.

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