Minister of Health and Chairman of the parliament’s Standing Orders Committee Ronnie Skelton has hinted at possible moves to prevent certain information presented in the House of Assembly from being published in the press.
He is making the suggestion months after he, in responding to questions posed, furnished the House of Assembly with charts showing the various salaries being paid to medical staff at the government-owned BVI Health Services Authority (BVIHSA).
When BVI News Online later published the said charts, several employees at the BVIHSA said they were just being made aware of major ‘discrepancies’ in payments to different workers. The BVI Medical Doctors Association, for example, said: “This publication [in the press] stated many injustices that were previously only suspected, and couldn’t be proven.”
Still noting the publication of the charts, the Medical Doctors Association intensified its call for the payment issues to be addressed – a move that now has resulted in the BVIHSA agreeing to increase all categories of salaries.
Skelton, who is now raising concern about the publication of the aforementioned information in the press, has indicated that amendments may be made to the Standing Orders, which are the permanent written rules under which the House of Assembly regulates its proceedings.
Skelton recently told the House of Assembly: “At the hospital, we have issues. You know some questions were asked in this honourable House [about the salaries being paid at the BVIHSA]. Some time this month or next month we will have some more reviews of the Standing Orders. Sometimes it’s good that the information – I don’t believe in hiding things.”
“Because of questions asked here [in the House], some huge anomalies showed up in the way we were doing salaries and wages [at the BVIHSA], and people’s business was put on the street. We have to do some house-keeping to get it right. We are trying our best to get it right. I have met with the doctors – a representation of them – and I promised them that we will look at it and be open minded,” added Skelton.
The parliamentary opposition and some residents have, over the years, complained about the level of ‘secrecy’ being promoted by the National Democratic Party government.
In addition to the Opposition, Governor John Duncan repeatedly criticized the administration for dragging its feet regarding a promise it made years ago to make the Freedom of Information Act a reality.
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