|Minister of the Environment and Drainage, Dr. Denis Lowe. (FP)|
Workers in the National Environmental Enhancement Programme (NEEP) were today given the assurance that they will be paid between today and Friday.
This guarantee has come from Minister of the Environment and Drainage, Dr. Denis Lowe, who has also expressed regret at the inconvenience caused to the workers and the fact that some were unable to meet their financial obligations.
"I have been assured today that the cheques will be signed this afternoon and that employees from the NEEP programme will begin collecting their pay cheques as early as late this evening, and we anticipate that everyone will be paid by Friday," Dr. Lowe stated.
He was speaking during an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service in relation to the issue of workers of the NEEP programme not being paid last week.
Dr. Lowe also sought to dispel myths about the late payment of workers. "It is totally untrue that the reason why members of the NEEP staff were not paid on time was as a result of the unavailability of funds or insufficient funds, or because Government was contemplating discontinuing the programme," he said.
He stressed that it was not Government’s intention to do so, because it remained committed to public servants at all levels of the public service to ensure that they remained employed, and emerged from this difficult economic situation.
In fact, the Minister revealed that over $9 million was approved in the Estimates this year for the execution of the NEEP programme, and another $2 million would be required later this year to ensure the work associated with the programme and the Drainage Division was completed.
He explained the NEEP programme was originally designed to flow in two- year cycles. At the end of each of the two-year cycles, he added, the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage would submit documents to the Ministry of the Civil Service asking for a renewal and extension of the programme for another two years.
"This time around there was a delay in the request. It was not any administrative glitch.?? It wasn’t negligence on the part of the public servants. It was simply that the renewal request got caught in the election cycle; it got caught in the Estimates cycle because you had to go to Parliament to get the funding for the programme approved through the Estimates; and it got caught in the end of the financial year cycle," Dr. Lowe pointed out.
He added that it was those three events combined that resulted in the "slight delay" in the submission and the processing of the information required to ensure that the workers’ pay would not be interrupted. "Once the cycle has been fully renewed then it goes back to routine where on every pay day workers will receive their funds," he said.
Dr. Lowe commended the work of the staff of the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage over the three-day weekend to ensure that the documentation was completed and sent to the Treasury Department for workers to be paid this week.
"We regret the inconvenience to our workers. We regret the fact that some persons would not have been able to meet their obligations on time. But our workers can rest assured that this Government is committed to ensuring that they have a pay cheque every single month, or [every] two weeks as the case might be, to take home to their families to ensure that they can put food on their tables, keep a roof over their heads, send their children to school and enjoy an enhanced life quality as a result of the creation of the NEEP programme," Dr. Lowe said.