The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development has spent some $110,000 on two retirement functions for an outgoing permanent secretary.
But the Ministry last December scrapped a traditional end-of-the-year luncheon for employees because of “severe financial constraints.”
The matter has aroused anger among employees of the ministry, who are terming it “double-standards by government ministers.”
The lucky beneficiary of the function was outgoing Acting Permanent Secretary Joycelyn Hunte, who had worked with the Dr. Keith Rowley regime for only three and a half months.
On Friday January 15, then-Minister Marlene McDonald held a retirement function for Hunte at the ministry’s “large conference room.”
The cost was put at $50,000.
Hunte was presented with a steelpan.
On Wednesday March 23, new Minister Randall Mitchell hosted a retirement function in honour of Hunte, at the upscale Jaffa Restaurant at Tragarete Road, Port of Spain.
The cost of the function was said to be $60,000.
But an end-of-the-year Christmas luncheon for employees, scheduled for Friday December 18, was cancelled because of “severe financial constraints,” according to Ramon Alexis, Communications Officer at the Ministry.
A previously designed invitation to the function bore the word “Cancelled” in large red type.
Alexis suggested a Dutch-style function (to which employees contribute) “as a way of sharing the Christmas joy.”
Ironically, Hunte – who enjoyed the two retirement functions – wrote to workers last December 18, telling them of the tough financial times.
In a note to employees, she said that “we must face and accept the challenges associated with reduced revenues and its effects on our operations.”
Hunte said, however, that the Ministry “will make every effort to ensure that the value we place on our staff is not diminished.”
She said the Ministry is prepared to “fund/support” an “Old Years’ Lime” at its offices on December 31 “provided that funds are released by the Ministry of Finance on time.”
Employees were denied hot cross buns for Easter and sweets for Spiritual Shouter Baptist celebration, which are two long-held traditions at the Ministry.
“We did not even get a dinner mint,” one employee groused.
While the two lavish functions were held for the public officer, vendors have been waiting for several months for payments.
An office was re-painted a few months ago, because a senior office holder reportedly did not like its existing colour.
There are also reports of high telephone bills for certain officials.
The Government recently imposed tough austerity measures on citizens.
The following are documents acquired from our sources :