FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert said there are significant vacancies in both Customs Division and the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) and he expects the Opposition to support the planned TT Revenue Authority (TTRA). He was speaking yesterday as the Standing Finance Committee looked at the estimates for the Finance Ministry.
He said there were about 100 vacant positions in Customs and this was where there were no incumbent personnel. Imbert said the ministry does its best to get the personnel department and the Public Service Commission to fill these vacancies and this was why the TTRA was needed.
“I am not the first minister of finance to have huge vacancies in Customs. At one time it was 50 per cent.” He stressed that the Public Service Commission is an independent commission. “(We) can’t tell them what to do. We can only ask.”
Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh asked if a meeting had been requested with the Public Service Commission about the vacancies. Imbert replied the ministry Permanent Secretary meets with the commission and speaks with them on these matters constantly. “We can’t do anything about it. You want to force them?”
He stressed the posts are not new and were not filled for the five years of the UNC administration. Gopeesingh said the Finance Minister and Prime Minister should do something and not blame the Public Service Commission. Imbert said this statement was “ridiculous” and the UNC could not fill one position in the BIR.
Caroni Central MP Dr Bhoe Tewarie asked if the minister was seeking to have the vacancies in Customs filled in light of the announced TTRA, which will combine Customs and the Board of Inland Revenue into one body.
Imbert replied: “Life goes on you know. We need the support of the Opposition to create the revenue authority but we must always work in parallel. And we are pushing hard to fill all the vacancies.”
He said he had given the union the assurance that everyone in post would be eligible to be transferred to the revenue authority. “We not waiting on the revenue authority.” Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar in her budget response, however, said if elected to government, the UNC would scrap the TTRA.
Cumuto/Manzanilla MP Christine Newallo asked if the same issues faced with the Services Commission would not also be faced with the TTRA. Imbert said the TTRA will be a statutory authority exempt from the authority of the Services Commission. “I think you are wrong on all points there.”