Published 22 November 2022
Buckie Got It, St Kitts and Nevis News Source
FORMER HEALTH MINISTER, AKILAH BYRON-NISBETT ADMITTED TWO FORMER MINISTERIAL COLLEAGUES RECEIVED HONORARIUM as members of the National COVID Taskforce.
“The decision to pay the task force the honorarium happened while I was away. I was actually off island when that cabinet decision was made so I do not know the justification for paying the monies in terms of the task force receiving an honorarium other than they said that they worked tirelessly to try to help the country to stay stable” Byron-Nisbett said in a tell-all interview.
Pressed, the one-time health confirmed ministers Wendy Phipps and Vincent ‘Juicy’ Byron who were both members of the COVID taskforce at the time received EC$27,000 as honorarium for risking life and limb to help confront the highly contagious and deadly pandemic which killed more than six million of the world’s population.
Byron-Nisbett denied receiving honorarium, although she was the subject minister, but not a taskforce member. “No, I never got any honorarium payment because I was never part of the task force,” she said distancing herself from what is now a controversial issue in the health sector.
She told www.sknnewssource.com when the three-party coalition Team Unity government selected taskforce members and eventually approved a payout to deserving people, she wasn’t the minister so had no say in the matter.
When she accepted the portfolio the status quo she met, remained. She didn’t join the policy-making body, and so was not qualified for any honorarium.
Continuing, the former minister stressed. “Despite being the Minister of Health I was not part of the task force,” Byron-Nisbett reiterated.
Attorney General, Vincent ‘Juicy’ Byron and Minister with responsibility for the Ministry of International Trade, Industry, Commerce, Consumer Affairs, Labour, Tourism, Transport and Urban Development, Phipps, who had served as Health Minister received the ‘golden handshake’.
The real heroes, though Capeless and shunned by the coalition administration, healthcare workers were ignored by the regime.
Dr Terrance Drew was livid healthcare workers did not feature in then Prime Miniter, and Finance Minister, Dr Timothy Harris’ consideration.
Incumbent Prime Minister, Dr Terrance Drew is still outraged at the slap in the face Harris’ administration dealt ministry of health workers who put themselves in hams way for some two years to help stave off the rampant march of the deadly virus.
In his press conferences since winning the August 5th polls three months ago, Drew’s indignance and disgust at the former government’s maltreatment of healthcare workers was still obvious when he spoke to reporters.
He made the blatant transgression one of his campaign themes, urging citizens and residents to “vote them out”.
When the Task Force was put together, Byron-Nisbett, a former Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) Information Technology (IT) specialist, turned senator in 2015 but was not yet a minister.
She argued that when the decision was made by the then task force to make the payment, she was not on the island but overseas dealing with other issues. She noted that even as the subject minister, she wasn’t active in that health body overseeing the national response to the global pandemic.
In retrospect, was that a mis-step by her administration and ministry?
“When I came in (got elected) the task force was already in place, so it just continued. When I came in as Minister of Health, we had already started dealing with COVID so it just continued. Minister Phipps and Minister ‘Juicy’ Byron were already on the task force, so we just continued,” she explained.
Like the appointment of the task force, Byron-Nisbett was again unfortunately handed a fait accompli with the payment of honorarium, she explained in her defense:
She also denied knowing figure beneficiaries received as honorarium for their work on the COVID-19 Task Force.
To deepen the mystery, it is unclear whether only ‘Juicy’ Byron and Phipps received cheques for their roles on the national body, or if Chairman of the National COVID-19 Taskforce, Mr. Abdias Samuel, also received the financial reward.
It remains a secret too, if the amounts they received were the same.
However, what is certain is that each person working on the taskforce received a honorarium. Information reaching this media house has confirmed that a prominent doctor who worked closely with the then government and task force, also received EC $27,000.00.
Former Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris could not be reached for comments.