Secretary of the Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Nathisha Charles-Pantin says the division is working to ensure all its employees are paid.
She attributed the delay in paying staff to a shortfall in the budget allocation for the division.
“As soon as we get releases (our accountants work tirelessly and go home at night to ensure employees get paid), our division will ensure that all employees, including Development employees, are paid,” Charles-Pantin said.
She was responding to concerns raised by THA Minority Leader Kelvon Morris on Thursday.
In a Facebook video, Morris highlighted that workers in the division’s Development Programme had not received salaries for the past three fortnights.
He said he reached out to Charles-Pantin and she indicated that there were funding challenges, but the matter would be addressed.
In a statement late on Thursday, the secretary urged Morris to “impress upon those he is serving in Trinidad to make food security a priority.
“I inherited this annual problem from his administration when I was assigned this portfolio. My entire development budget pays wages and it isn’t sent in advance because it was meant for capital expenditure (according to the accountants in my division),” she said.
“This administration has started fixing this wage/salary issue with several categories of workers, however the overall allocation is simply not enough to implement development projects while attempting to fix the wage issues at the same time,” Charles-Pantin stated.
She noted that the division’s allocation for development (capital expenditure) for fiscal 2022/2023 was $24.6 million.
She said the wage bill for development employees was $23.7 million, leaving only $900,000 for development projects.
She said the wage bill was as follows:
• Agricultural access roads: $12 million
• Repository lure estate: $6 million
• Mistletoe/invasive plant control and wetlands: $3.6 million
• Fish Markets: $2.1 million
“Based on the aforementioned, I took an executive council note to the executive for supplementary funds, which was approved and is being worked on through the budgets department at the Division of Finance, Trade and the Economy,” Charles-Pantin stated.
“The Division of Food Security will keep its workers employed but it isn’t an overnight fix. Our accountants and staff at the division completed every step necessary,” she added.