Who approved the telephone allowance increase for CEOs?
Tonight, the six hundred dollar increase in telephone allowance for CEOs is dead. But, before it’s buried, the question remains, “who gave the approval?” New information has surfaced that the matter of an increase for CEOs was never passed through the Cabinet. According to Minister of Education, Francis Fonseca, while the decision may have been justified, it was not initiated sponsored by any Cabinet minister. The media met up with Fonseca today where he weighed in on the back-pedaling of the increase.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “You know we have, and I have and, our ministry has always enjoyed a good, respectful working relationship with the Belize National Teachers Union. That will continue to be the case. We’re always – our doors are always open to them. You know, we have ongoing discussions with them and meetings with them on a regular basis. I saw the release that they put out. I think they raised three primary issues. One was the income tax returns, that is, you know unfortunate situation that we inherited. We inherited an income tax filings backlog going back to 2015. We had to hire staff, we had to have people work overtime. We brought that up to 2021 but we still have work to do. So that’s just an unfortunate situation that we’ve inherited for as I said going back to 2015. And so our team has been working on that issue and we’ve spoken to the BNTU many times about this issue, so they know that they know the work that is ongoing to bring those returns up to date, the filings of those returns up to date. The other issue there is I think was increments that again is a very, you know important issue of course for teachers. The problem there is that the managing authorities, some managing authorities have not delivered the appraisals and appraisals are a necessary first step for the granting of increments, and we have to be reminded, of course, that increments are not automatic. It’s based on an appraisal and approval process. So that work in terms of the increments, I think 2021-2022 and 2023 increments that work is ongoing as well. We just need to get those appraisals from the managing authorities. So it requires the discussion of all parties, the teachers union, ministry and the management.”
Interestingly, the memo for the increase was sent out on November 4, 2023 from the Office of the Cabinet Secretary. In addition to giving his views on the CEO allowance, Minister Fonseca also chimed in on the comments made yesterday by President of the Public Service Union, Dean Flowers. According to Flowers, the 140 percent increase in phone allowance was a slap in the face to public officers who are yet to receive their overdue increments. Additionally, Flowers spoke on the lack of performance assessment of CEOs; a comment to which Minister Fonseca says the president is being disingenuous.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “Again, the Ministry of Education did not mandate any 30 minutes extra work. Absolutely not. As you all know, we launched a new national curriculum framework an new competency based curriculum, and some schools have decided that they want as a part of that approach, that new approach they have put in place some additional programs which require some more time but that’s all on a voluntary basis after discussion with their teachers. No mandate has been given for extra 30 minutes by the Ministry of Education, so there’s no issue there.”
Reporter: Minister, just a clarification. You’ve disposed of backlogs for income tax from 2015 to 2021, correct?
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “Correct. Yeah.”
Reporter: So 2021 to now –
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “Right. They’re working. They’re almost done with 2022 and then we’ll have to finish 2023.”
Reporter: There’s the issue of some teachers they say not having been paid salaries since the start of the new school year so three months.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “No. We’re not aware of that. Wherever there are teachers who have, there are cases where there are transfers, teachers are transferred from one management to the next and there are there is required paperwork to reflect that transfer decision that has to come in. So in some cases there may be a month or or so. But in every case, what the ministry knows is requests from the Ministry of Finance an off cycle what they call an off cycle submission for payment so that I mean if the union has names they need to provide them to the to the Ministry of Education so we can address them. That’s always the case. You know, whenever they have these issues there is an established process and procedure for us to address them through the Chief Education Officer or the Chief Executive Officer and on every occasion, the ministry is fully responsive and the Union knows that.”