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How necessary is an entertainment allowance?

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Posted: Monday, May 25, 2020. 8:13 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: The Government of Belize (GOB) is implementing cost-cutting measures (CSMs) to decrease its expenses and try to weather the economic storm brought on by COVID-19, cutting various benefits and allowances given to public and contract officers without touching their substantial salaries.

Among the CSM’s is a 25 percent reduction in housing and entertainment allowance for public servants as well as a 50 percent reduction in those allowances for contract officers, senior managers, and chief executive officers. But what is “Entertainment Allowance” and how necessary is it?

The Public Service Union (PSU) explains that Entertainment allowance is issued to senior positions such as Heads of Department (HOD), Chief Executive Officers (CEO), and other officers payscale 25 and above, for the purposes of offsetting costs incurred for food and drinks when meeting with clients both local and international for the purposes of negotiating deals and conducting other government business.

The Compendium of Allowances 2014 published by GOB, shows that CEO’s get $1,500 a month, Judges get $1,000 a month, HOD’s get $750 a month, and pay scale 25 and above officers get $500 a month in entertainment allowance. Currently, GOB has some 14 ministries and 53 departments listed.

Our newsroom spoke with Dean Flowers, first vice president of the PSU to get the union’s perspective on these allowances, given the ongoing negotiations between the unions and GOB. Flowers cautions that since the negotiations include the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) and Association of Public Sector Senior Managers (APSSM), his comments would be limited as to not speak for those entities. Flowers notes that the PSU wants GOB to take a comprehensive review of all allowances, to ensure that they are justified and adequately serving their specific purpose.

“I think that the consideration that needs to be made here is whether every single head of department and CEO is entitled to it. Because if it is that every department is not engaged in the practice of entertaining people then we need to look more particularly at the ones that are doing it and provide a justification for them to continue doing it,” Flowers said.

Flowers also noted that there is an ongoing practice that must be addressed in the name of cost-cutting, where some HOD’s and CEO’s entertain and then forward the bill to their respective ministries, rather than using the entertainment allowance.

“In principle, the entertainment allowance may be justified, but the practice of forwarding invoices for costs incurred as a result of those entertainment needs to stop. You cannot be receiving an entertainment allowance and still forwarding the bill to the government, that needs to stop.

He said that he could not comment on the entertainment allowance given to judges, as he did not have the relevant information on the subject. The PSU has recommended that going forward, entertainment allowance be issued on a credit or debit card and at the end of the month unused funds returned to GOB as opposed to the current system of being attached to the recipient’s salary.

Negotiations between GOB and the joint union negotiating team were said to have concluded, but conflicting information being reported by both parties earlier this month leaves the issue of a resolution in question.

 

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