Sinckler sets the record straight 

Minister clarifies NIS fees mix-up

MINISTER of Finance and Economic Affairs, Christopher Sinckler, says when the House of Assembly resumes next month, he will ask for the record to be corrected in relation to his response to the Leader of the Opposition, Mia Mottley, regarding the increase of fees paid to the members of the Board of Directors of the National Insurance.

He indicated this intention when he phoned the ‘Down to Brass Tacks’ call-in programme yesterday morning.

At a political meeting hosted by the Barbados Labour Party over the weekend, a Cabinet Paper was made public, indicating that Cabinet had approved an increase in those fees. Last week in the House of Assembly during the Estimates debate, when a question was raised regarding that Cabinet decision, Sinckler rose on a point of order and stated he had no knowledge of such a decision.

Yesterday, he explained that when he indicated in the House that he had no knowledge of that action, he was correct, as the decision was made when he was abroad on Government Business. But, he said that following Saturday’s meeting, he examined his files, which showed the Opposition’s statement on the fees to be true.

“Normally, how these things are handled, is that if the Opposition has such information, [when] the person returns to the House, it is normal practice [to say] we had this discussion, I said it was, the Minister said no, that he didn’t have any knowledge of it. I can now lay the document as a document of the House to prove that I was right, and therefore I am calling for the Minister to correct the record. That is what normally happens. It then mushroomed into a big political meeting in Baxter’s Road, for whatever reasons,” he said.

The Minister told the listening audience that the request for the increase in the fees came by way of a Cabinet Paper from the Ministry of Labour, which was first and foremost seeking to have the Act governing the NIS Board amended, to allow for the Permanent Secretary or his or her nominee to sit on the board as an ex-officio member. Sinckler explained that at present, the PS can only sit on the board if he or she is appointed by the Minister.
He said the secondary issue in that Paper was to seek Cabinet’s approval to bring the fees of the members of the board more in line with those of the persons who sit on the Boards of the Barbados Revenue Authority and the Financial Services Commission.

“The setting of the original fees for NIS was set many years ago – had the Chairman at $1800, the Deputy Chairman at $900, and the members at $234 – and that was not consistent with any of the other organisations that would fall into that financial/regulatory category…

“The NIS manages a portfolio of billions of dollars – substantial amounts are invested in Government, others are invested overseas, some in private entities, as well in terms of private investments – and it is a lot of work, that’s the truth. It is a lot more work than say a person who would sit on another regulatory statutory corporation,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Opposition Leader also took the opportunity to call the radio programme to thank Minister Sinckler for clarifying the issue, adding that they can now put the issue “to rest”.

“I hope that it means that we can turn anew, and I trust and pray that he will see to it that there is virtue now also in making those things public, which ought not to remain private,” she said.

Mottley was referring specifically to the Memorandum of Understanding signed with Sandals and the agreement with Cahill. She contended that it would allow the country to turn a new chapter as it relates to governance and accountability, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary of Independence. (JRT)

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