|Former minister’s salary row continues in Senate|
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: Jun 22, 2012
Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson said yesterday Free National Movement (FNM) Senator Zhivargo Laing took home a salary of $135,000 per annum as a state minister in the Ingraham administration.
“For the period 2007 to 2012 the honorable Zhivargo Laing was paid, contrary to the representation that has been made in this newspaper (The Nassau Guardian) that he was paid the same as other ministers of state, he was paid more than other ministers of state,” said Maynard-Gibson.
She was referring to an interview Laing gave The Nassau Guardian on Sunday.
In that interview, Laing responded to claims by Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis, who indicated in the House of Assembly last week that one minister of state had earned more than the other three junior ministers in the Ingraham Cabinet.
Laing said he got the same pay as the other former ministers of state, Loretta Butler-Turner, Phenton Neymour and Byran Woodside.
However, Maynard-Gibson said the record reflects that those ministers were paid $93,000 per annum and Laing took home more.
Laing has explained that he received a housing allowance of $3,000 per month because he lived in Grand Bahama. He said other ministers in the Ingraham Cabinet who do not live in New Providence also received this allowance.
“Three [of them] took home $93,000 and one took home $135,000,” Maynard-Gibson said.
“The fact is that under the PLP the ministers of state take home $93,000 except for Senator Keith Bell because he is not a Member of Parliament; he is a member of the Senate. Therefore, in accordance with the law his salary is less.”
The issue of state ministers’ salaries arose after it was revealed that there was an “error” in the 2012/2013 budget reflecting a $6,000 annual salary increase for ministers of state.
Laing said he did not believe it was an error.
Maynard-Gibson said, “In this newspaper (The Guardian) here he talks about a pay raise and it not being a mistake.
“If there was any pay raise that was not a mistake, it is the $6,000 personal allowance that Senator Zhivargo Laing was paid that no other minister of state was paid.”
However, Laing said, “If the senator asserts that I receive an additional $6,000 in pay, she should verify [it] because I brought in here a pay slip…which does not show any $6,000 pay. And if the treasury paid it, they should find out who it went to because it surely didn’t come to me.”
President of the Senate Sharon Wilson ended the row, noting the issue had been debated almost ad nauseum.
“Let us always be mindful that the Bahamian people are watching us and they are interested in us moving forward in matters that are going to affect them in their daily lives,” Wilson said.
“I don’t think there is much to be gained from fine line rhetoric and our debating this almost ad nauseum. I think I’ve understood the point and anyone halfway listening to these proceedings would have understood.”