FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert said Government will soon move to pay public servants by electronic means rather than by cheques.
He revealed this while contributing to debate on Tuesday in the Senate on the Bills of Exchange Bill 2022, piloted earlier by Minister in the Ministry of Finance Brian Manning. Imbert said most payments by government were for salaries and wages for public sector employees.
“Sixty or seventy thousand or more people receive their salaries by cheques and wages by way of cheque.”
He said a few entities in the government system such as the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) were already being paid electronically by deposits to the debit cards of beneficiaries.
However, he said to pay about 60,000 public sector employees such as public servants, members of the protective services, defence force and teaching service, requires cheques to be made out, supported by the presentation of individuals’ personal details such as a personal identification (such as ID card or driver’s permit), checking their signatures, and ensuring the words and figures match.
“If you move now from cheque payments to these 60,000-odd people to electronic, you have to get their bank account numbers, so you run into the first obstacle – when people start to complain about personal and private information. So that’s the first challenge.
“We as a Government, we are doing it you know. I just spoke to the head of the Treasury and within the next month or so the government will be moving towards a process of making payments to members of the civil service and other services I spoke about, electronically.”
Imbert said the Government would first need to get employees’ bank account numbers.
“We’ll first have to inform the trade unions about this. We’ll first have to inform the individuals about this. Hopefully not too many people will object and they will provide their bank account numbers and then we can start the process of introducing electronic payments for wages and salaries.
“So the Government is not sitting down. This is a complex issue.”
Imbert said it was quite a complex exercise but assured that was Government’s plan. He suspected some individuals such as the elderly and vulnerable might still prefer cheques.
“There will be a gradual phasing out as time goes by, but this bill – as (Independent) Senator (Anthony) Vieira has pointed out – is a significant first step.”
Earlier, Imbert said that while the bill allowed electronic cheques for interbank transactions, there was too much scope for fraud to allow electronic cheques to be written by individuals.