Arbitrary firing of PSM staff was based on “evidence” – Minister

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Public Service Minister Tabitha Sarabo-Halley on Thursday defended the firing of staff members from her department shortly after she would have assumed office, saying that there was evidence at her disposal to warrant dismissal.

“I think that the evidence that was before me suggested that something needed to be done and the investigation would bear whether or not that was rational,” the minister stated at a press conference.

She, nevertheless, revealed any bit of evidence that she referred to but noted that the investigation will soon wrap up with the findings.

However, following the dismissals, a special Board of Inquiry (BoI) was commissioned by President David Granger to probe the arbitrary firing of the three workers at the Public Service Ministry by Minister Sarabo-Halley.

On May 31, 2019, the personnel staff and chief accountant at the Public Service Ministry were sent packing by Minister Tabitha Sarabo-Halley shortly after she was appointed to that post.

When the news broke about the arbitrary firing of personnel staff and the chief accountant, the Government initially denied firing them but one week after, Director General Joseph Harmon confirmed that indeed, the workers were sent home.

But he said higher authorities had since intervened and the dismissed staff were eventually sent on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation. He had maintained that the staff in question are still employees of the Government as the decision by Minister Sarabo-Halley to terminate their services has been halted.

Scholarships

However, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had alluded to the fact that the fired workers were initially targeted and arbitrarily dismissed after they revealed that the children of a Government minister received payments amounting to over $20 million in the last two years.

One of those revelations is that the children of Minister Simona Broomes had allegedly received over US$86,000 in 2018, monies that were transferred from the Department of Public Service. Then again, this year, another transfer of millions reportedly took place.

Given the controversy around that situation, the Public Service Department has made a decision to publicise all scholarships to ensure “transparency”. It was confirmed that both children of the Minister in question received grants to study overseas, but Sarabo-Halley could not state if the monies were transferred to their personal accounts.

“I decided that transparency is key for me and in terms of scholarships, its public money and public funding. There is no need to keep it a secret…In terms of transparency and accountability, I have no issue in releasing the names of persons I would have granted scholarships to,” the Public Service Minister posited.

Currently, over 100 scholarships are open for undergraduate studies in the fields of Accounting, Agriculture, Management, Civil Engineering, Computer Science, Food Science, Geography, Information Technology, Mechanical Engineering, Medicine, Petroleum Engineering, Public Management, Sociology, Supply Chain Management and Youth & Community Development.

Postgraduate opportunities are available in Environmental Management – specialisation in climate change and disaster management, and specialisation in natural resources management— Petroleum Engineering, and Social Work.

However, to study in another country, persons are required to pledge an asset to ensure their return to Guyana. Upon returning, they are required to serve for a number of years to repay the State.

The eligibility to grant these studies are dependent on a number of factors and a panel will deliberate on the relevance of the chosen field. The Department may choose to provide only tuition, if there are insufficient funds from the budgetary allocation.