One week after Government denied firing the personnel staff and chief accountant of the Public Service Ministry, Director General of the Ministry of Presidency, Joseph Harmon on Monday confirmed that indeed, the workers were sent home while adding that an investigation has been launched into the incident.
The workers were sent packing by newly appointed Minister of Public Service, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley on May 31.
Harmon, however, told Guyana Times during a telephone interview that the termination letters were rescinded and that the workers are now on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
“In fact, it is known that that Minister did in fact purported have fired these persons. As of now, I think that decision is in abeyance pending an inquiry which will be conducted in a short time to determine whether in fact there were any breaches, grounds for dismissals, but certainly, an enquiry is going to be held into that. They are presently on administrative leave rather than dismissed.”
He maintained that at this point, the staff in question are still employees of the Government as the decision by Minister Sarabo-Halley to terminate their services has been halted.
Following the revelation, Deputy Director of Press Affairs at the Ministry of the Presidency (MOTP), Ariana Gordon told sections of the media that while allegations have been levelled against the public service employees, they were not dismissed.
However, shortly after a document seen by this publication proved otherwise. A “Determination of Contract” letter signed by the Minister in question was addressed to a staff member stating that his services will no longer be required.
“Pursuant to the aforesaid contract of employment, your services are hereby terminated with immediate effect”, the letter stated.
Several staff members were said to have also received similar letters. Employees who have been removed were called PPP “moles” by political activist David Hinds, who is said to have a close relation with the subject Minister. Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, at his press conference last week alluded to the fact that those workers were initially targeted and arbitrarily dismissed by Minister Sarabo-Halley after he blew the whistle on transactions at the Ministry of the Presidency which he claims saw the children of a Government Minister receiving payments amounting to over $20 million in the last two years.
Jagdeo noted that the staff at the PSM were sent packing shortly after his first disclosure because the Government believed that those workers had leaked information to the Opposition about corrupt actions by the Administration.
“That is what their response is, information that we should know about, it is not their money and there is no secrecy about how you spend our money – taxpayers’. But they fired all the staff of the personnel department and they fired the accountant, and clearly, they are worried that within that department you have many more secrets, many more secrets, and they thought that those people released the information and they did not. They just unfairly dismissed them using some spurious excuse of restructuring,” Jagdeo said.
He stated that the workers were unfairly dismissed. In recent days, the Opposition has been revealing information about alleged corrupt practices within the Government.
One of those revelations is that the children of a senior Minister 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.
“In 2019, another child of that Minister got transferred from the same Office of the President, the Ministry of the Presidency, Public Service Division, $2,510,575. So combined, over $20 million because the other one was over $17 million – over $20 million…this is taxpayers’ money and clearly, we need an explanation, let the country decide if the explanation is a plausible one. So, we have been asking for an explanation and guess what? Silence from the Ministry of the Presidency and silence from the Minister, a person who is very, very vocal on other matters, it’s silence.”
According to the Opposition Leader, the Public Service Minister rushed to illegally fire all the staff in the department that had access to this information, since the Government believes that those fired workers had sent information to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP).