TUESDAY, 28 AUGUST 2012
PHILIPSBURG–Government “could have anticipated that the overall personnel management was under serious pressure due to the merging of two governments into one,” Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said in a statement to The Daily Herald about the recent findings of the regulatory audit of personnel cost.
That report was compiled by the General Audit Chamber and pointed out that the government’s personnel files were in disarray with almost all of the 324 sample files being incomplete and a high percentage of them missing appointment decrees/contracts and registration letters for the pension fund, among other failings.
Government did not take a “kill-the-messenger attitude” to the audit report, but did respond to it, she added. “There were areas where we agreed with the report and admitted such and areas where we did not agree.”
“All in all, in the context of checks and balances, these reports serve not only to keep our eye on the ball, but also to ensure the focus is on the right priorities,” the prime minister said.
“It is not government’s place to question the undertakings of the Audit Chamber. However, given the timing of this particular investigation, the government could have anticipated that the overall personnel management was under serious pressure due to the merging of two governments into one.”
Wescot-Williams continued, “Fortunately, the Island Territory had undertaken the massive task of formalising the organisational structure and the placement of personnel therein several years ago and so as far as the organisation is concerned, most of this could have been transported to the country’s organisation.”
A “notable exception” was the Ministry of Justice, because this did not exist in the Island Territory days.
Placement of the personnel and formalisation of these placements was “another huge undertaking.” The matter of one central location for all personnel files had been “a challenge” before 10-10-10 and continued to be so thereafter with the individual ministerial responsibilities.
“When one considers that ministers are responsible for most appointments in their ministry, one can imagine the intense debate regarding uniformity of personnel policies, etc.,” the prime minister pointed out.
In the draft national archive legislation, ministers are totally responsible for their own archives.
“So this report has come very much at a time when the jury is still out on the exact line between adherence to central [uniform, ed.] policies and individual ministerial responsibilities. As a side note, this is not only the case in the management of personnel, but across government areas of responsibility,” she said.
Government has purchased a new personnel-information system and pension registration is “a priority.” Government has been working with General Pension Fund APS to have up-to-date information about employee-pension rights. The transfer of files from APS’s predecessor APNA has “not gone without some major hiccups either.”