More se­cret ben­e­fits for APNU+AFC min­is­ters on the backs of tax­pay­ers

Weekend Mirror - - COMMENTARY - By Dr. Les­lie Ram­sammy

Some­time

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.

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