Imbert: Government has not rejected entire salaries report

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Finance Minister Colm Imbert – File photo

FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert said Government has not rejected the entire 117th report of the Salaries Review Commission (SRC).

He made this comment in a statement issued by his ministry on March 11.

Imbert laid the commission’s 113th and 117th reports in the House of Representatives last month.

In a statement to the House on March 6, he said, “The 117th report of the SRC is unacceptable because of the serious and inexplicable anomalies that have emerged in the recommendations in the report.”

The Cabinet, he continued, “believes it is necessary to alert the SRC to the existence of these anomalies.”

Imbert said Cabinet will refer the 117th report back to the commission with a list of anomalies “so that it can revisit, review, and revise its recommendations and return a revised report to the Cabinet via the President for its consideration.”

He maintained this position in his statement on Monday.

Imbert said some of the anomalies in the report include a recommendation for the salaries of judges of the Supreme Court to be maintained at the same levels as in the 98th SRC report in 2013, when increases were last approved for judges of the High Court and Court of Appeal.

He said another anomaly was a recommendation that the salaries of Industrial Court judges should be reduced, while there were some surprising increases, such as a 60 per cent increase in the Opposition Leader’s compensation package. The report proposed an increase from $29,590 to $47,500.

It also proposed an increase in the Prime Minister’s salary from $59,680 to $80,000 in the report. This 30 per cent increase would make the Prime Minister the highest monthly income-earner amongst the country’s top public officials.

Imbert said his March 6 statement in the House did not say or imply that Government rejected the entire 117th report or all of its recommendations, which are the result of a ten-year job-evaluation exercise.

He said since that statement was made, the Government had received further correspondence from the Judiciary on the recommendations for certain of its senior administrative officers.

On March 6, Imbert quoted from a letter from Chief Justice Ivor Archie outlining the Judiciary’s concerns about recommendations in the report related to its officers.

Some of Archie’s concerns included recommendations being made on wrong assumptions and the report’s being “the product of a fundamentally flawed process that fails to adhere to basic principles of natural justice.”

In light of the anomalies mentioned in the report, Imbert continued, three options were available to the Government: scrap the entire report and ask the SRC to redo its job-evaluation exercises from scratch; make its own recommendations without reference to the SRC; or ask the SRC to revisit and review the serious anomalies before making its final decision.

He said the third option was chosen.

Imbert added that it could take another ten years for the SRC to redo its evaluation.

He said Government did not think it appropriate to make its own recommendations to the report without reference to the SRC, given the committee’s advisory role under the Constitution and the resources available to it.

Under Section 141 of the Constitution, the SRC is required to review the salaries and conditions of service of officers under its remit, on the approval of the President.

The commission’s members are appointed by the President after consultation with the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.

The SRC’s role is advisory and its recommendations can be accepted or rejected by Cabinet and/or the Parliament.

On March 6, Imbert mentioned these points and added that the government and the Parliament had not accepted some of the recommendations outlined in the SRC’s 98th report in 2014.