More secret benefits for APNU+AFC ministers on the backs of taxpayers
earlier t his year, the APNU+ AFC government s i gned an agreement with ASURIA Insurance Company of Suriname for health insurance coverage for its Ministers. The agreement is worth just over $ 38M annually and about $155M by 2020. It is the first time ever that Ministers will have health coverage which I assume will be sought outside the country. It is a transaction that the government has entered into secretly. There was no advertisement, no indication that they were interested in obtaining health insurance for ministers and their families. I am not aware that any discussion occurred with any of the insurance companies based in Guyana.
I am not opposed to the government covering costs of medical care for its ministers by obtaining health insurance coverage. But it is important that such transactions be in the public domain. Earlier this year, Minister Harmon insisted that government pays no bills for Ministers’ foreign health care. This was not the truth. It was a deliberate misinformation. We are aware that ministers have traveled to Ireland, Cuba, Canada, USA and the Caribbean and these trips were paid for by the Ministry of Public Health. The Auditor General must take note of this. I am confident that on examination the Auditor General will discover that these costs were met by the Ministry of Public Health and or by the Ministry of Finance. The question is will ASSURIA now refund the government?
We note t hat t his is another benefit for government ministers and the public needs to know. I am certain no one minds the ad- ditional cost to cover health benefits of ministers. But it is a benefit that should be in the public domain. Ministers benefitted from a large salary increase of up to 100% almost immediately upon assuming office in May 2015. They benefitted from a further increase in 2016 and yet another in 2017. They also benefitted from increase allowances, particularly for international trips. Moreover, the telephone and entertainment bills have skyrocketed, with many of the ministers and their families dining out at expensive hangout places, like the Marriot. The public has a right to know.
When the government hides or withholds information from people, it is often because they know it is something that will irritate people and that people will have a problem with. Any move to implement an action in secret is chaperoned by sinister motives. The APNU+AFC government has earned a terrible reputation for its secrecy, non- transparency and non- accountability. This latest secret deal is another of the non- accountability and non-transparency that now appears to be the new standard for government.
APNU+AFC promised total transparency and accountability and zero- tolerance for corruption. It rode on this platform during the election campaign. Its manifesto is densely populated with promises to be accountable. The ASSURIA deal is a direct repudiation of all their promises to be accountable and transparent. It is an absolute betrayal of the people who decided to give APNU+AFC a chance. They have squandered their chance and people will not forget the betrayal.