Region 2 RDC under scrutiny over rent-free quarters, overpayments

…regional staff owe over $17M in salary advances by APNU/AFC

A situation at the Region Two Regional Democratic Council (RDC), where employees were benefitting from free housing they were not entitled to, was among the issues that were ventilated at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) during Monday’s statutory sitting.

Acting Region 2 REO Susanna Saywack

The Auditor General had found in his 2016 report that 14 persons were occupying the RDC Government quarters rent-free. Additionally, it was found that there was no proof that these employees were entitled to rent-free perks.
During Monday’s sitting of the PAC, acting Regional Executive Officer Susanna Saywack was made to answer for these discrepancies and provide an update on the issue. In 2016, the Regional Executive Officer (REO) was APNU/AFC appointee Rupert Hopkinson.
She explained that only one of those officers was actually entitled to rent-free quarters.
“My knowledge is one of the officers, out of the 14, is entitled. She is presently our acting DREO (Deputy REO). For the others, no records I have found, stipulating that they’re entitled to rent-free.”
“What was did in terms of writing them, asking those who are occupying to pay rent. Which we are doing. I was identifying earlier. Nine are currently paying house rent, seven persons were written to, two vacated and two officers are presently entitled to the house… rent-free, that is,” Saywack explained.
Of the 76 quarters in the RDC’s possession, 18 are currently occupied. Meanwhile, another issue that was brought up was overpaid salaries and advances. A whopping $17.9 million is still outstanding.

APNU/AFC appointee Rupert Hopkinson was the REO in 2016

“Through the Chair, in recovering same I know that we would have tried to reach out to the staff that have these advances to be cleared. A few of them would have addressed same and we are awaiting responses from the others,” she said, explaining that they were written to.
Saywack explained that only some of these workers are still employed by the RDC, although she could not confirm exactly how many persons are no longer working with the region. According to her, monies are deducted from the salaries of those who owe advances and are still employed with the RDC.
Meanwhile, Accountant General Jennifer Chapman, who was present during the sitting, emphasised that the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) empowers the RDC to deduct money from the salaries of these workers in order to recover their debts. She recommended that this course of action be followed through.
According to Civil Service Law, 2004 Public Service Rules, “Government quarters provided to public servants as a condition of service, eg in the case of hospital staff where presence on a hospital compound may be required on a continuous basis, shall be free of rent.”
It goes on to state that: “In lieu of quarters, a house allowance may, with the approval of the Permanent Secretary, Public Service Ministry, be granted to a public servant who is entitled to free quarters but for whom quarters are not available.” (G3)