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Instant access now for public servant salaries
Some 85,000 public servants will be able to access salaries straight from the bank without a two day delay and providers of goods and services to Government will not have to wait for cheques to clear following changes to facilitate electronic transactions in the public sector, says Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Vasant Bharath.
Bharath spoke about the situation in the Senate yesterday while piloting an amendment to the Exchequer and Audit Act (69-01) to allow for electronic transactions to be done in the public sector. He said it would further facilitate conduct of business in T&T. He said the act was in place since 1959 and Government usually issues 160,000 cheques monthly.
Bharath said discussions were held with unions which are in agreement with the changes for public servants to access salaries quicker. Noting the increase in electronic transactions in T&T, Bharath said 793,000 payment transactions were done in 2012. He said there are 422 ATM machines in T&T and 11,000 point of sale outlets which had increased by 20 per cent. He said phone banking has increased by seven per cent in the last three years.
“People in T&T are ready to embrace electronic transactions for forms of payments,” Bharath added. Bharath acknowledged the need to ensure confidence concerning security of data and funds and against disclosure of information. He said the system will have to guarantee the safety of assets placed in it and must guard against theft, misuse and other abuses.
If it is not handled properly, he said, it could affect financial institutions and the financial system as a whole. Quoting from a financial book, Creative Destruction, Bharath saids it was time to “embrace the new and push out the old.”
Bharath said in the next three weeks the Custom Act will merge various systems in a single electronic window. He said the time period to obtain work permits was reduced from six weeks to two and half weeks, granting of import permits from four weeks to one day and the fiscal incentive process from six weeks to one day.
He said the period for manufacturers to obtain import duty concession documents was cut from six weeks to 12 days. Systems will also be instituted in the next few weeks to coordinate among the Coast Guard, Immigration, Harbour Master and all ports with shipping agents and other stakeholders.
PNM Senator Faris Al Rawi however questioned why the act had to be brought to the Senate since he noted Bharath said it doesn’t prohibit electronic transactions. He questioned whether it was due to the failure of the Auditor General, Treasury, or other officials to flag some issue.
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