Former head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas stated yesterday any increased benefits for members of Parliament and judges should be linked to performance.
He was commenting on the passage of the Judges Salaries and Pensions Amendment Bill and the Retiring Allowances Legislative Service Bill, both of which propose radical changes to the system of computation of pensions.
The bills were passed in the House of Representatives on Friday, June 13, and will be debated in the Senate on Tuesday.
Dumas said he was happy unanimity had been achieved by mem-
bers of the House of Representatives. He noted matters of crime, education and other such issues generally did not bring that level of unanimity.
“But money does,” he said.
Dumas also noted Government leader Dr Roodal Moonilal was quoted as saying there were people who had served the country well and conscientiously, like former Justice of Appeal Ulric Cross, who had a pension of only $3,500 a month.
“There are lots of others who served the country well and conscientiously. I, too, would like to think that I served the country well and conscientiously and for much longer than the four years given to MPs (who would qualify for a pension after a four-year period in the Parliament),” said Dumas.
A minister would qualify for a pension of $20,000 a month after four years under the proposed system.
“I served for 34 years and when I look at my pension, after having been head of the Public Service, all I can do is band my belly a bit more.”
Dumas added, tongue in cheek: “But then, of course, I was only a public servant and, as everybody knows, public servants don’t work. So I have to be fully satisfied with the pittance that I receive.”
Asked about his “pittance”, he laughed before saying: “It is slightly more than what Ulric Cross was getting. It is no where near five figures.
“Did I serve the country well and conscientiously? Obviously not,” he satirised. “But I am glad for the parliamentarians and the judges. It is just that I have to shop at the same supermarket as they.”
Dumas said he also noted “the slap in the face” for the Salaries Review Commission (SRC). The commission, he said, had stated it had to do a job evaluation of the work of MPs before making new proposals.
Dumas said he agreed in principle there should be some increase in pension for MPs who served “rather more than four years” and for judges.
“I am not questioning the principle (of an increase). What that increase should be is another matter,” he said.
“After all, there was a judge who retired the other day who had about 60 outstanding judgments. Is he now to get an increased pen-
sion on the basis of that performance? And if so, why?” Dumas asked.
He said the increased pension should be linked to performance rather than be a “blanket thing”.
“Because you have good judges and you have judges who are not so good, all being put in the same category,” he said, adding nobody reviews them (the judges).
He said you keep hearing the case has been postponed and some of the principals in the case die before the case is heard, and the judge gets the same pension as someone who is conscientiously performing his or her duties on the bench.
That cannot be fair, Dumas said.
Unlike a judge, the performance of an elected parliamentarian is reviewed by the population every five years or, in some cases, sooner.
Dumas said the talk from the Government about reviewing the minimum wage was “almost insulting”.
“You vote massive increases for yourselves and then you look down the road at the much less fortunate and you say, ‘We might give you another dollar more’.”
Dumas said a number of the MPs and senators, “those who are not ministers”, have other jobs, other sources of income.
He acknowledged there might be added responsibilities under the expanded committee system in the new session, but he said these enhanced benefits were being done “in anticipation”.
Dumas said the comprehensive study of duties of MPs promised by the SRC needs to be done.
He said one entered Parliament to improve the lot of others, not to improve your lot. He said some MPs worked hard while others did not.
“It is a pity that we don’t have section on the ballot when we go to vote which says NOTA—none of the above,” said Dumas.
—See Page 4