For the common labourer, to gain twenty five thousand dollars, he/she would have to work for about one hundred and fifty to one hundred and seventy weeks; and that is not factoring in minimum wage. For Paulette Elrington, however, twenty-five thousand dollars is earned every thirty days and is paid out of the government’s budget under foreign affairs. To be precise, Elrington gets multiple allowances for housing, utility, furniture, transport and her child’s education. These allowances add up to just over twenty-one thousand dollars and do not even include her monthly salary. Tonight’s story, however, is not so much about how much the young woman makes or that she is a close relative to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. It is about a request that was sent to the Ministry of Public Service seeking advice on whether the budget for the public service can afford to pay for Elrington’s replacement in New York and still continue paying Elrington’s allowances once she goes to study in Jamaica. The memo reads, in part, quote, “please note that the Head of Mission is inclined to support Ms Elrington’s request.” End of quote. What is even more interesting is that Elrington is requesting to be transitioned from a contract worker to a permanent staff member whilst negotiating the time off needed to pursue her studies. The request is outrageous and the amount of monies being paid out is obscene. We tried getting Dr Peter Allen, the Chief Executive Officer in the Public Service, for comment but we were unsuccessful. We were able, however, to get in touch with the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Julius Espat.
The Public Accounts Committee is tasked with a mandate to hold government officials accountable when it comes to the use of public monies. Espat says that a part of the responsibility is on the media and the Belizean people to demand transparency from the representatives they put into office.
We are unsure as to whether an approval or response was forthcoming from the Ministry of Public Service. Paulette Elrington has been working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2008.