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Wrongs that must be righted

beadottin, beadottin@nationnews.com

Added 29 January 2013

It’s time for a change! Yes, it’s time to get our fundamentals right. In my opinion, the first and most important goal (of education) should be that no child leaves primary school in 2013 unable to read, write and comprehend at the age-appropriate level. We have five years to achieve this first goal. Sixth forms may be good and necessary but we have to, nay, we must, have a sound foundation. I have learnt recently that a small company owes the National Insurance Scheme over $5 million and the Government more than $3 million in value added tax. We may immediately ask, “How could officers in the civil establishment have allowed this situation to develop?” Or perhaps a more pertinent question would be: “Were those officers thwarted in the pursuit of those arrears by a person or people higher up outside the civil establishment?” Does integrity legislation address this problem? In the Civil Service, as in any organization, there are human relations problems. I recall that while serving as the chief executive officer of the Barbados Labour Party two civil servants from one department came to me saying, “You are our last hope.” They had problems with the head of their department. One was at management level, the other lower down. I had been advised to meet them and make a report of their complaints to the appropriate minister. I forwarded their allegations, along with the factual information I had gathered, to the minister.    Some years later I was in the arrivals hall at the airport when an individual introduced himself to me. In brief, he had been a senior staff member in that department and could in fact corroborate the complaints made to me earlier. What recourse is there in the Civil Service to address complaints, especially by a junior against a senior? Recently, the private sector revealed that a poll of 25 companies showed that the Government owed those companies just under $50 million. The Government responded that the private sector owed them more than six times that amount. This problem has to be solved. Car insurance companies have a system called “knock for knock”, where each company will settle the claim of its own client in certain circumstances. In a modified version of K for K, Government and each company should examine their competing claims before the end of this financial year. Government may then provide letters of credit, if any, for each company to the value of its debt against what is owed by the company to Government institutions, be they National Insurance, the Value Added Tax Division or Inland Revenue. Companies will still be required to make returns in the normal way but also to show that available credit.

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