PUBLIC Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke says he and the membership “will bring the sky down,” if health minister Terrence Deyalsingh does not address issues of alleged fraud at the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) by the end of this week.
Duke, who is preparing to stand in the PSA elections for a third term on November 23, made the allegations via live stream on Facebook.
He said money at the NWRHA has been misappropriated and deposited into private accounts. He also said NWRHA workers were being denied their right to increments and pension contributions.
“Terrence Deyalsingh, where the money gone? I am getting reports that some folks, instead of putting the money where it supposed to go over a period of time, they have been siphoning money from people, money that should have been going towards paying legitimate bills, services. (It has) been siphoned into private accounts,” said Duke
“And it is my understanding that no fraud squad was called in, yet they want to spend some US$15 million to bring people here to investigate some sou-sou.”
Meanwhile, he said the NWRHA was “withholding their (pension) contributions to workers’ pension, fooling the workers, telling (them) it’s ‘X’ amount of money you owe, you can’t pay that, so better you take the pension now (and) forget the permanent letter.'”
The NWRHA, he added, is confusing permanent employment with pensions.
“Let me set the record straight – permanency has nothing to do with pension. Your pension and your permanent appointment are two separate things. Your permanency is a requirement of law in the public sector.”
He stressed that anyone employed with a public-sector organisation is not a relief worker or a casual worker but a permanent worker, once the worker is working against a vacancy.
Speaking on workers attached to the NWRHA, comprising over 2,000 people at the St James Medical Complex, Port of Spain General Hospital, St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital, and supporting primary care health centres, he said, “These workers have been clamouring, month upon month without ending, for basic rights that they have been guaranteed.
“They have been guaranteed the right to have increments on a yearly basis, yet the organisation denied the workers these rights. I got involved and money begin to pay,” he said, although he claims money remains outstanding.
“(The NWRHA) cannot find money to pay workers’ pension. So what’s happening in North West, as in all RHAs, the workers contribute a sum and the bigger portion is contributed by the employer.
“The employer, in order to cheat workers out of their pension rights are telling the workers, ‘We can’t make you permanent, because if we make you permanent ten years ago, then you have to pay all the money in pension for ten years, and you don’t have the money,’ when in fact the NWRHA has been denying the workers their contribution.”
He warned, “If we don’t have a response from Terrence Deyalsingh by the end of the week, it will be mas in the whole of Port of Spain, the whole of St James and the whole of St Ann’s.”
Newsday spoke with Deyalsingh briefly. He said he was unaware of any allegations of fraud at the NWRHA and, in any case, he would not respond to any ultimatums from Duke.
— to newsday.co.tt