The New Today


Is the New Government being set up for failure? – Part III

According to calypsonian Black Wizard, when the carnival is over there are still matters of national importance to address and the transition process of the new government is one of the most consequential ongoing issues at this time.

In my previous two articles some of the major challenges the new government is expected to face were highlighted and it was determined that proper design of the senior management team that would lead implementation of the new government’s agenda is critical to its success or failure.

It was also established in the first article on July 8th 2022 with the title, “Mr. PM please get the transition process right”, that the transition process between an outgoing and incoming government is an opportunity for the new government to capitalise on the moment of the elections and lay a solid foundation for success.

Although it’s been two months since the new government was voted into office and some may consider this to be early times if one looks at the transition process in neighbouring islands, by now it should have made capital out of the clamour for change by a majority of the electorate.

However, having failed to “beat the iron while it’s hot”, the government is beginning to get bogged down with all sorts of spurious allegations largely of its own making.

The emerging situation has occurred because of the ill-conceived transition process that appears not to be guided by a strategy nor be able to take advantage of the momentum for change demanded by the electorate on Election Day.

This momentum was driven by an electorate who witnessed first-hand widespread corruption and experienced the contempt the defeated NNP government had for the people. They are quite aware of those in the public service and the wider society who facilitated and benefitted from the system of largesse which operated during the reign of the last government and voted to change that arrangement.

The people wanted to see those enablers removed from their current positions of power and influence to areas where they are not able to facilitate the ‘gravy train’. They wanted the incompetent sycophants and opportunistic cronies to be not able to further erode the professionalism and integrity of the system and that those persons be held to account for their damaging actions.

The majority of electorate understand many of these sycophants in the public service can’t be easily removed without due process, however they want those who were engaged in malfeasance be transferred to positions where they are not able to continue their misconduct, and those who are incompetent removed from their current functions and be replaced with competent experienced public officers.

According to information, four of the holdover senior managers from the previous administration are acting, not confirmed as Permanent Secretaries while another one is on contract. All of them are considered handpicked sycophants promoted to their positions not on merit but because they were considered loyalists and supporters of the defeated NNP regime.

In fact it is well known in the public service that competent, experienced senior officers were overlooked in favour of those sycophants and loyalists. According to information from the Ministries the litany of misconduct, mistakes, negligence and incompetence by these sycophant senior managers are mind-boggling to say the least.

Indications allegedly from some members of the transition team are that the situation is really bad in some Ministries such as Physical Development, Social Development, Education and the Environment. Rather than take action to have those senior managers account for their gross incompetence and misconduct they have rewarded them by moving them to lead Ministries that are critical to advancement of the transformational agenda.

The NDC massive and the majority of the electorate who voted for change, does that really make sense? Those are the poster boys and girls of misconduct, incompetence and malfeasance that permeated the public sector during the tenure of the defeated regime.

One would think moving those sycophants who can’t be reverted because they are confirmed in their positions to inconsequential Ministries and reverting those who are acting back to their substantive positions would have been a better strategy to sending home or redeployment of workers at the bottom of the ‘food chain’ who can’t harm your agenda and themselves are victims of the defeated government attempt to exercise manipulation and undue control in order to extract votes from these vulnerable people.

Admittedly some of them are hardcore NNP activists, however the majority of these people are victims who were taken advantage of by the defeated regime to control them just for their votes. They are not the ones who signed excessive contracts, implemented the system of largesse or acted as ‘bag men’ for the defeated regime.

The majority of these poor people are merely victims and should not be made to pay for the perpetrators who are being shielded and rewarded for incompetence, misconduct and malfeasance. This is downright bad politics and an abysmal failure to capitalise on the momentum for change from the electorate and lay a solid foundation to implement the new government’s transformational agenda.

It is clear as day that the transition team did not have a strategy nor a plan on how to capitalise on the momentum from the elections, a critical focus of any transition process for a new government coming into office after an election victory, and have now created a political quagmire that is creating negative optics for the government.

Rather than seize the opportunity and revert those incompetent acting senior managers, the enablers, to their substantive positions and redeploy others who can’t be  reverted to less significant Ministries, the transition team squandered an early opportunity to act while the “iron  is hot,” and when the population would have easily accepted these changes.

They are now faced with not only a political, public relations and possible legal quagmire but has given cannon fodder to the “pisstail ignoramus” and his conniving wingman who undermined the former President of the Public Workers Union.

The voices of these two individuals were silent when scores of competent, experienced public officers including Rachel Robert’s, Isaac Baghwan, Mervin Haynes, and Gemma Bain-Thomas were being victimised.

After I listened to the former President of the Senate, himself a turncoat apologist, on The Narrative with host Calistra Farrier, I wondered if the “old geezer” has not laid a landmine for the new government.

Speaking to the matter of the firing and redeployment of workers in Carriacou, the gentlemen in an attempt to explain the various types of contracts under Grenadian law said, “even if one is given a contract for a specified time but the contract is to provide service in a function that is part of a business and you have been doing so for a prolonged time then that contract although its pretends or purports to be for a specified time is indeed a contract for an unspecified time meaning that you are permanent”.

He further went on to say, “the law recognised there would be unscrupulous employers who would pretend to give you a contract for a specified time simple to deny you long term benefits, to maintain you in a precarious state of employment as to be able to exercise undue control over you and take advantage over you, the laws says in that context even if that contract is for a specified time, is indeed a contract for an unspecified time”.

The question is – were these people not employed by the defeated NNP government? Why did that same government place these people in this precarious position by not properly extending their contracts after their term of employment came to an end? Why were they left hanging like that? Was it to exercise undue control over them to get their votes?

By the apologist’s own admission it could be said that the NNP government was an unscrupulous employer who left these poor workers hanging to extract their votes knowing very well the election was near.

There are hundreds of lowly paid workers both within the public service and the parallel structure set up by the defeated former regime in such a situation which the new government would now have to address.

An effective strategy to capitalise on the momentum for change would have focused attention on making meaningful not cosmetic changes within the holdover senior management team by being creative within the law to design a team capable of efficiently implementing the new government’s transformational agenda.

More serious analysis should have been given to the performances of these holdover Permanent Secretaries during the previous regime which would have clearly shown up their incompetence.

In addition, the litany of evidence of misconduct and malfeasance that have come to light during this transition process is more than enough to justify re-deploying of those who are confirmed in their positions to less significant Ministries and revert the ones that are acting back to their substantive functions utilising the available avenues provided for by administrative rules of the service and within law.

It is quite evident this was not done because it was the sycophant senior manager who facilitated these excessive contracts and presided over botched implementation of so many important infrastructure projects in the Ministry of Physical Development, would not have been rewarded with an important Ministry like the Environment or the political activists, acting senior manager responsible for youth affairs would have been reverted back to his substantive position.

This would have allowed many more experienced and competent persons to be considered for the senior management team and in so doing provide an opportunity to design a senior team that has the capabilities to implement the government’s transformational agenda and set up the new government for success.

The transition team must not lose sight of the fact that this transformational agenda being touted around has to date not been properly fleshed out and as such there is a need for persons with relevant capabilities in the senior management team to help drive the process of putting together the transformational agenda.

The process of engaging in sector analysis, review of current sectoral policy documents, identifying policy issues and formulating programs and project ideas from the sustainable development plan while aligning them to international donor agencies priorities for funding is a highly skilled and technical process for which the holdover senior managers do not have that proven capacity.

The transition team in their review and analysis of the capabilities of these senior managers should have been mindful of this and be more purposeful and creative in working within the rules to create more space within the senior management team to get experienced and technically capable public officers, many of whom were sidelined and victimised during the reign of the defeated government, on the team instead of the superficial changes made to date.

Related:  Is the new government being set up for failure? - Part IV

When one considers the poor performance of the defeated government, outside of macro-economic management which was largely driven by international donor conditionalities, particularly in the early stage of its recent reign and illustrated by deplorable roads, broken health service, an education system that continues to fail large numbers of students, widespread disillusionment among youths, poor management of our environmental resources among others and realise the large amount of resources that are available to address these issues but are either held up, can’t be disbursed, because of incompetence by holdover senior managers or when disbursed, large amounts siphoned off through corrupt practices often times facilitated by these same sycophant senior managers, how can the transition team justify the  current senior management team.

Can they seriously expect that team to spearhead implementation of the new government’s transformational agenda? NDC massive, if this is not setting up the government for failure then I don’t know what is.

There is this notion that is being tossed around even by an executive member of one particular union who loves to expatiate in the spotlight, these holdover senior managers were pressured into misconduct and malfeasance.

This is utter rubbish, all of them were handpicked specifically because they were considered loyal and prepared to do the bidding of their masters and in return were allowed to abuse whatever privileges that were afforded them and in many cases directly or indirectly benefited from these unscrupulous schemes.

A closer look at the meteoric rise of a particular sycophant, an assistant commissioner and the two bag men in external affairs is very instructive.

Another important area where the new government is being set up for failure is the apparent abandonment of the party since many of its senior party operatives are now bogged down with the transition team. Granted the party and government are separate and distinct, if the party can’t function properly to mount a successful election campaign there will be no government to form.

Therefore, it is only prudent that when a government is in power the party must continue to function and build its organs in preparation for the next general election cycle. The last NDC government made that fatal mistake and paid for it dearly. This must not happen this time around.

There are already grumblings among activists and party surrogates of being abandoned with no one engaging them. Others have complained that the process for election of constituency executives is being hampered because some persons are busy with the transition.

If the transition process is hampering the daily functioning and long-term strengthening of the organs of the party then it is indeed setting up the government to fail. Those who are responsible for transforming the party should stay focused on the task at hand and not get unduly bogged down with the administration of government.

The young political leader must not allow this to happen, he should ensure key executive members of the party remain to lead the transformative process that would strengthen the organisation into a viable political institution to rival that of the People’s National Movement (PNM) in Trinidad and Tobago and People National Party (PNP) in Jamaica.

Moreover, a well-functioning party will provide an impetus to the government. The party should try and keep its foot soldiers together and systematically try to get employment for those who are now unemployed, provide ongoing training to canvassers and other activists in collaboration with other fraternal parties in the region and beyond.

The political leader should consider the introduction of the annual party conference concept that will contribute to the preparation and adoption of ‘ White Papers’ and ‘Position Papers’ on matters of concern to the electorate that could feed into various government’s policy positions.

According to CNN’s John King, “the pillar of democracy is to listen to the people”. Neither the transition team nor the political leader can’t continue to play tone deaf to the people’s cry for real change, not merely an exchange of government.

The young political leader must seek to bring about a fundamental rethink of what government and governance is all about and avoid joining the trend where governments all over the world appear to be waging war against the people, particularly in the areas of information and finance.

To date, there appears to be an inappropriate silence by the government on the true state of play within the public service.

This apparent self-censorship runs contrary to the principles of accountability, a bedrock of democracy. It is now two months since the new government is in office and by now the transition team should report to the government its findings from the various Ministries and departments.

The Prime Minister in turn must report to the people, by way of a national Town Hall or address to the nation and where evidence of misconduct, malfeasance and corruption have been uncovered, the government must take the necessary steps to have those public officers  account for their actions.

This rather foolish utterance by the union executive who craves the spotlight that some of the information of malfeasance by public officers at hand should not be revealed for fear of embarrassment to them and hinting at the notion that they were pressured by the past government, is dangerous to any democracy.

The NDC’s mantra is let the people’s voices be heard, the people want to know the source of the money used to buy back Grenlec, they want to know who former Ministers and other public officials are behind ghost companies, who are the senior managers that signed these excessive contracts, who senior police officers received kickbacks from suppliers of materials and services to the force and the list goes on.

If these people are not held accountable they will do it again and it will incentivise others to do so in the future. Importantly, the momentum for change from the election will be lost and sections of the electorate who voted for change will become disillusioned once more and the party will lose support and be defeated in the next general election.

In England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to resign after he pretended not to know and shielded his friend and advisor from allegations of sexual impropriety, and partying in 10 Downing Street during the Covid lockdown. Why should the transition team shield and reward those sycophants who engaged in misconduct, malfeasance and abuse of power?

In fact, the performance of many of these senior managers, permanent secretaries leave much to be desired. This is only setting up the government to fail.

The evidence is clear that many of these holdover senior managers have performed way below par in carrying out their functions: from the badly written contracts that resulted in large sums of money paid out to consultants with very little to show for it by way of deliverables, failure to ensure proper monitoring of ongoing projects, lack of initiatives and action to cause the drawdown of large sums of monies allocated to Grenada under climate change and other global funding arrangements to the low level of implementation of programs and projects yet they have been rewarded over more experienced and competent public officers who were victimised and sidelined by the former government just for speaking truth to power or being labeled an NDCite.

The case of Mervin Haynes, an IMF, World Bank trained Economic Development Planner, former Director for Grenada and St. Vincent at the Caribbean Development Bank, and Director of Economic and Technical Cooperation who was illegally sidelined purportedly on special assignment by the defeated government for seven years.

I was reliably informed that for a greater part of these seven years the previous government has been paying on contract another person around thirteen thousand dollars a month to function in his position while still paying him his salary.

That person, it is said, has not performed no way near to the level at which the substantive office holder had performed when he was functioning in the position. Government is currently paying over twenty two thousand dollars a month to cover both salaries.

According to reports, there are many Mervin Haynes who two months into the new government’s reign are left doing virtually nothing in illegal appointments yet those sycophants who engaged in all sorts of malfeasance and misconduct are rewarded.

How can this be tolerated by a government which claims to want to transform the public service? Where is the cry out from the leadership of the Public Workers Union for the scores of public servants who were similarly victimised for years by the defeated regime?

If the transition team doesn’t change course and design a senior management team that has the capabilities to lead the policy formulation, donor alignment, and project formulation work then the new government’s efforts to transform the country will be severely hampered  and its attempt to secure a second term will be difficult.

The transition team needs to get its act together quickly and redesign the senior management team where the electorate are expecting to see the changes instead of going after those at the lower end of the food chain.

In 1995 after winning the elections in a close contest by one seat the ‘old geezer ‘ was able to expand his party’s base by over four thousand votes to win a landslide in the 1999 elections. The transition team must set up the government to succeed and expand its base, not allow it to get into a situation referred to by sociologists as ‘learned helplessness’.

Rather than creating negative optics of going after vulnerable workers on receiving information on the precarious situation of those workers, the government should meet with them and explain the situation to them, letting them know they are not the ones that have caused them not to get pay or have to be redeployed but it is the previous government which failed to regularise their contractual arrangements.

The new government should stop payment to those ghost companies, however help the workers to form workers cooperatives thus providing an opportunity to get some of their own supporters into those cooperatives and providing them with employment.

The majority of those holdover workers will be happy and the NDC will be able to expand its base since these workers will vote for the party in the next election. The transition team needs to set up the government to succeed not fail.

In the next article I will suggest some ideas how the design of the senior management team can be enhanced to the benefit of the government and by extension the country.

Special Correspondent