Government owes TelEm 15 million in phone bills

POSTED: 02/5/15 6:14 PM

St. Maarten – The government has an outstanding bill with telecom provider TelEm for 15 million guilders, Minister of General Affairs Marcel Gumbs told the parliament on Wednesday evening late during the budget debate. In 2014 alone, the total bill for phone calls made by government employees totaled 1.1 million guilders.

Gumbs said that his cabinet will come up with a policy for the use of mobile phones. Currently, 260 civil servants have a cell phone provided by their employer. The Ministries of General Affairs and Vromi – with 50 and 42 respectively – have the highest number of cell phones, followed by Tourism and Economic Affairs (35), Public Health (26), Justice (25) and Education (17). At the Ministry of Finance only 9 civil servants have a government-owned cell phone in their possession.

Gumbs said furthermore that currently his ministry is aware of four so-called ghost civil servants – people who are on the payroll and receive a salary, but who hardly or never show up for work. Another 31 civil servants are out long-term due to illness. Four of them have been on sick leave for more than two years.

Minister Gumbs repeated that there is no agreement with the labor unions about the payment of a cost of living adjustment to civil servants. “We have no legal obligation to pay this,” he said.

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