Acting Chief Immigration Officer Geraldine Ritter-Freeman has said an increasing number of public servants are not showing up for work because of an incessant mold issue plaguing government offices.
The high-ranking government official is now calling for immediate solutions for the problem.
While responding to the concerns, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Deputy Governor’s Office, Carolyn Stoutt-Igwe agreed that the working conditions were unfavourable and said the problem would be addressed.
However, Ritter-Freeman suggested that the acting permanent secretary was downplaying the issue.
“That (the mold issue) should not be minimized in any shape or form because there are serious cost implications as it relates to the existing structures that all of us are forced to work in … The fact is, a lot of the spaces have been compromised and the issue of health and safety should be paramount,” said Ritter-Freeman.
Make a priority
While speaking yesterday during a public consultation on the proposed recovery plan for the British Virgin Islands, Ritter-Freeman said the issue of mold should be part of in the recovery plan.
“I don’t see it in the document, but it should be prioritized and be taken at the utmost level in terms of prioritizing. As head of a [government] department, I am already seeing that leave forms are coming in with regards to persons who are being adversely affected by mold, etcetera,” she said.
“Human resources are our greatest assets and once we begin to underlook or underestimate the impact of the mold situation that we are facing in some of these spaces, I think it would be dire for us in the future.”
Policy to go before Cabinet in two weeks
While commenting further on the issue, Stoutt-Igwe said the government plans to make half of the Central Administration Complex in Road Town “habitable” while government works on a more “permanent solution for the other half.”
The permanent secretary claimed there were efforts in the last two years to implement a ‘Health and Safety Policy’ but the initiative was delayed because John Duncan was serving his final moments as governor.
She said Governor Agustus Jaspert will be taking on the task.
“We are taking that policy forward. It is on the agenda and because of all the concerns that are coming forward, we are advancing that within the next two weeks to the Cabinet,” Stoutt-Igwe said.
Ritter-Freeman, however, was not satisfied and wanted immediate results.
“Four months have gone and people are sitting in mold-affected areas and now we are starting to feel the fallout because leave forms are coming in and persons are just not coming to work because they say they are getting sick,” she lamented.
“There has to be something more immediate than putting forward a policy.”
Stoutt-Igwe then said she would raise the issue at the senior management level to determine the extent of the problem and the number of affected departments.
She said she will also evaluate the cost and the contractors who tackle molding.
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