If the government and unions do not agree on anything, they do have that point in common. The Briceno administration are reportedly asking the Financial Secretary the hard questions. They want to know why certain decisions were made under his watch in the Ministry of Finance. Here is how Minister Usher explained it.
Hon. Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Public Service: “The Financial Secretary is the accounting officer of the Ministry of Finance so he does have a responsibility for what was happening at the Ministry of Finance. In our first meeting with him as a Cabinet, Cabinet members asked him “FinSec why didn’t you stop it. Why didn’t you stem the bleeding that was happening?” His response to us was that he tried, he mentioned it to the former Prime Minister, he brought it up to members of Cabinet that these type of spending is not sustainable, we are going to run into serious problems down the road very soon. He said it fell on deaf ears. He said it was only so much he could do to try to stop and when the Minister of Finance who happened to be the Prime Minister told him that this needed to be done he carried out instructions. So your question as to whether there should be blame I believe there should be. Whether he could have stopped it well that’s a question that only he could answer and the former Prime Minister because I don’t know what type of relationship they had but in terms of the Ministry he is the accounting officer, the Financial Secretary is the accounting officer for the ministry so he has to be accountable for what happens in that ministry.”
Reporter: But would he have had that kind of power or authority to stop some of these contracts and spending that was happening ?
Hon. Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Public Service: “He certainly could have made sure that the contracts were done properly. He certainly could have made sure that the spending was done accurately, that there was accountability in terms of what was being spent. Whether he could have stopped it that’s a difficult question to answer because we know the type of government being run by the former Prime Minister where it was either his way or the highway. So if he had tried to stop it perhaps he would have been terminated I don’t know, that’s why it’s a question you would have to ask him or the former Prime Minister to see what their answers would be.”
But did Joseph Waight really have a say, or was he merely an advisor? According to Minister Usher, all things considered about the former Prime Minister, Waight’s advice may have fallen on deaf ears.
Hon. Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Public Service: “I can tell you that he has been requested time and time again to explain what was going on and to tell us exactly why it is that these decisions were made. Certainly when it came to the increase in salaries for public officers that happened after the IMARBE Registry was nationalized and so on when there was an artificial boon to government revenue- remember the officer’s salary is based on a formula based on government revenue but that is when government is making more money not just when there’s just one artificial influx of money so there should not have been a salary increase at that point. He said he recommended and suggested that we shouldn’t increase salary because we’re getting this revenue from this registry. Again he said it fell on deaf ears. So the point I’m trying to make is that is there blame ? Yes. Could have have stopped it ? I’m not sure. We are asking him the hard questions right now and we’re certainly looking at his performance now to help us get out of the situation where we are in.”