Chairman of the Salaries Review Commission (SRC), Edward Collier, says the SRC was not consulted by the Parliament on the two controversial pension bills although the SRC has jurisdiction over pensions for judges and members of Parliament.
Speaking to the Express, Collier confirmed that SRC members met President Anthony Carmona yesterday to express their concerns on the passage of the two bills in the House of Representatives.
The bills—the Judges Salaries and Pensions Bill and the Retiring Allowances (Legislative) Bill— are to be debated in the Senate today.
Told that it was being said the SRC had consistently taken the position that it did not have jurisdiction over judges’ pensions, Collier said: “This is not so. We have jurisdiction over pensions in relation to those officers coming under our purview. The question is whether retired judges come under our purview. Sitting judges come under our purview and we provide for their retirement.”
Collier said the pensions of parliamentarians also come under the SRC’s purview.
“All the terms and conditions of offices falling under the purview of the SRC come before us and that includes pensions,” he said.
“Constitutionally, it is so enacted under Section 141,” he added.
That section states the SRC is responsible for recommending, when requested by the President, the terms and conditions of service for judges, Members of Parliament, top managers in the Public Service, Commissioner of Police and magistrates and specific offices.
Asked whether the SRC was consulted by Parliament, Collier said: “No. And that was our concern.”
He added: “We still function under the Constitution. The powers-that-be will decide what they want to do. Whether that is constitutional or not, is another matter.”
Asked whether the SRC had been “slothful” in doing the job evaluation exercise required to upgrade MPs’ and judges’ emoluments, he replied: “Absolutely not! There is a misconception as to who actually does the job evaluation exercise. It is not the SRC. It is done by consultants.”
Asked who engages these consultants, Collier said: “The Government. We have no resources to engage any consultants.”
Asked where the SRC goes from here, having spoken with the President about its concerns, Collier stated the SRC expressed its position to the President. “But he is the one has to act on whatever he considers to be appropriate. We just drew certain things to his attention as to the Constitution,” he said.
If the Bills are passed in the Senate, the President can delay his assent. The Constitution states the President can assent or withhold his assent.
Proponents of the legislation contend that the decision on matters of pension rests with the Parliament, justifying the measures in relation to retired officers.
Collier’s statements, however, suggest that any pensions determined by Parliament are part of the terms and conditions of existing office-holders, which therefore fall under the SRC’s jurisdiction. This appears to be the constitutional issue which Senior Counsel Martin Daly and others have raised because the Parliament has essentially bypassed the SRC on this matter.