Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris Unity Government (THUG) has not completed its first five year term in office, but is about to give itself a pay raise.
For a government, which only gives lip-service to “good governance, transparency and accountability,” Prime Minister Harris, who is also the Minister of Finance, has secretly appointed a Salaries Review Commission to review the salaries and allowances of Ministers of Government, Parliamentarians and the Speaker of the National Assembly but the nation was never informed.
There has been no government notification on the appointment and no indication of who the members of the Commission are or the terms of reference.
Queen’s Counsel, Charles Wilkin informed the nation on Saturday in a radio commentary in which he examined the four-year-old coalition administration.
“I have no problem whatsoever with increases in the pay of those who govern and represent us in Parliament. They are in my opinion substantially underpaid. I have always expressed this view. Politicians in office should be well paid but they should be held firmly to account,” said Wilkin, who noted that the last St. Kitts and Nevis Salaries Review Commission reported in 2005.
“There were modest increases recommended. In its report the Commission went at great length into the need and importance of good governance and recommended legislation to regulate integrity in public life, campaign finance, the procurement process for government contracts and greater openness in government. The Committee was very aware that the relatively small salaries paid to Ministers expose them to the temptation of corruption. They said this in support of the recommendation for campaign finance regulation: “Our history demands not only that our leaders not be bought and sold but that we proudly proclaim that this is virtually impossible and that any attempts to do so would be subject to criminal sanctions imposed by law.”
Wilkin said the Commission was right. “Leaders should not be available for purchase and sale. Because of the enormous power and responsibility entrusted to them they should be above reproach. Corruption drains an economy. It is the honest taxpayer and the hardworking men and women who pay the price when Government funds which should go to provide essential services are syphoned off into the pockets of public officials and their private conspirators and cronies.”
“Corruption affects the investment climate and the reputation of a country. It is often hard to prove but even the perception of it affects the morale of the country. Corruption grows like a cancer until it destroys the system. Often the country is laid low at the same time. We see examples across the world,” said Wilkin.