Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Permanent secretaries interested too

n Judges Salaries and Pensions Amendment Bill, 2014

Permanent secretaries want to understand the policy that underpins the new arrangements for judges and parliamentarians’ pensions. It is understood magistrates are also expressing concerns.

The new arrangements are contained in the Judges Salaries and Pensions Amendment Bill, 2014 and the Retiring Allowances Legislative Service Bill, 2014, both of which were passed in the House of Representatives and which propose sweeping changes to the system of pensions for these two groups of public officers.

Sources indicated permanent secretaries, while noting the argument put forward for the increased benefits, are of the view that these arguments apply equally to them.

They noted that many former permanent secretaries live on pensions calculated on the basis of salaries from the 1980s and are in similar straits, they said.

Furthermore, the pension of permanent secretaries has a maximum cap of two-thirds of their final salary, provided that they work for 33 and a third years in the Public Service.

Even a permanent secretary who retires after this period (33 and a third years) does not receive a pension of $20,000 a month, which is what a parliamentarian who served at any time as a minister would receive after four years in the Parliament under the revised terms and conditions.

Moreover, if a permanent secretary opts to receive a gratuity, that option reduces their pension, unlike a parliamentarian who receives his/her full gratuity and pension.

It is for this reason that the permanent secretaries are asking what is the underlying policy for this new arrangement.

The permanent secretaries contend that if Parliament is going to index pensions based on existing salaries and allowances of judges and MPs, it is only fair that it applies the same principle to permanent secretaries, who uphold the apparatus of the State together from Government to Government; who manage the resources of the State; who are personally accountable and who face unfounded allegations of political bias in the course of doing their jobs.

The permanent secretaries feel pension reform is needed for the entire Public Service.

The Public Service, unlike members of Parliament, does not have a contributory pension scheme. Parliamentarians contribute one/sixth of the salary towards pension.

Reginald Dumas, former head of the Public Service, said yesterday public servants should be made to contribute to their pensions since this would relieve the financial burden on the Treasury.

He noted that the unions would “bitterly oppose” this idea.

Parliamentarians stressed yesterday that one of the real problems of former MPs, especially former ministers, is that after they demit office, alternative employment is not readily available.

“When a Government is voted out of office, there is a hostile climate for former ministers, something which, they claim, no other group of public officers faces, and which makes securing acceptable alternative employment quite problematic,” stated one parliamentarian.