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Mr. PM, please get the transition process right

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell and his team must get the transition process right if his government is to succeed.

The transition process between an outgoing and incoming government is an opportunity for the new government to capitalise on the momentum of the elections and lay a solid foundation for success.

In the context of Grenada, its weak public service riddled with nepotism and corruption in a highly charged partisan political atmosphere the transition process will undoubtedly be a difficult and challenging one.

The young Prime Minister must be extremely careful not to make the mistakes of the last National Democratic Congress (NDC) government. How well a new government transition into office will determine if it is able to deliver on promises made during the election campaign?

With that in mind Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell must seek to set his incoming administration on the right path during this transition period by doing the following.

One of the first things the young leader and transition team should do is set a bold vision and translate campaign promises into ten (10) strategic goals and initiatives.

The team must identify which of these goals can be achieved in the first ninety (90) days and plan to implement them. In addition to payment of pension to public servants who retired in the last twelve months, legislation to improve labour relations could be drafted after consultations with trade unions and workers as well as other initiatives considered ‘low hanging fruits’ can be done within ninety days.

The second thing to be done is identify key risks and set up a plan to mitigate against them. These risks lie along a broad spectrum from the corrosive politicisation of the public service to cyber security, public safety and preparation for natural disasters with the transition taking place in the hurricane season.

The outgoing leader’s mantra, he can only work with people whom he can trust, went ahead and intensely politicised the public service with his cronies, sycophants and known supporters to the extent that almost all of the Permanent Secretaries and senior managers in the service were handpicked based on political considerations.

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell must not make the mistake of the last NDC government which allowed these people to remain in sensitive positions only to sabotage implementation of its programs and projects.

The new leader should speak to Cecilia Ann John, the then head of the Caribbean Development Bank financed Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) and she would tell him how her efforts to advance implementation of that project was thwarted by a senior official in the Ministry of Finance.

That same senior official is now under the microscope for the late payment of the salaries debacle under the last NDC government which Lenox Andrews, the newly elected Member of Parliament for St. Andrew South West referred to as sabotage.

Another instance of serious sabotage of the previous NDC government was the sending of conclusions of Cabinet to the office of the then opposition party as soon as these conclusions were prepared and signed by the Cabinet Secretary.

Mr. Prime Minister, please don’t be fooled by these ‘snakes in the grass” for there are very dangerous snakes in South America.

The litany of instances of frustration and sabotage under the previous NDC government by these cronies and sycophants of the outgoing government suggest that the new Prime Minister will place his government at great risk if he keeps these people in sensitive positions.

The images of officers loading computers from this secretive IT office run by a controversial Police Superintendent highlights the risk to cybersecurity for the incoming government. The question is – what was the role of this particular unit and whether spy software was being used to monitor citizens’ digital footprint and telecommunications devices?

Another department considered a high cyber security risk is the Special Branch which is heavily populated by cronies of the outgoing government. If Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell doesn’t move to immediately cleanse these departments and take action to secure the IT departments in critical ministries such as the Ministry of Finance and Prime Minister’s Office, his government will be at great risk for sabotage and subversive actions by these political cronies and sycophants of the outgoing government.

If recent revelations of alleged sexual abuse in the police force on top of the intense politicisation of the organisation by the outgoing government is anything to go by that institution is in immediate need of deep cleansing.

To keep the two deputies and a particular Assistant Commissioner as part of the Police High Command during this transitionary period is a serious risk. One of the deputies should be on pre-retirement leave, all three are considered ‘square pegs in round holes’ and their meteoric rise in the force can be attributed to nepotism.

It would have been more prudent to replace these functionaries with more senior superintendents who are competent and have experience in doing the work.

The current heightened activity in the tropics is a glaring reminder of the need to treat natural disasters as a priority during this transitionary period. Should one of these systems develop into a strong tropical storm or hurricane it would be the incoming government’s responsibility to prepare the nation for the many dangers that could occur with the passage of any of these tropical systems.

The onus is on the new Prime Minister to ensure that priority is given to NADMA, in particular getting the senior management staff that would lead the organisation as soon as possible.

The new leader and his team must properly manage those risks to ensure a seamless transition for the incoming government. For without proper risk management the beginning of his term can easily become reactive where the focus is on ‘fighting fires’ within the bureaucracy and that will have a lasting negative impact on his government’s ability to implement its transformational agenda.

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Once the ministries are aligned and ministers identified the next critical step is to structure the organisation of which a key component is identifying a team of top administrators and managers that will implement the transformational agenda.

Establishing a team of top managers is not a simple process in light of the intense politicisation of the public service by the outgoing government, the poor quality of current senior management pool most of them handpicked by the former leader based on political loyalty and whether he can trust them, and low morale among public servants.

A first step should be to deploy small teams of experienced persons to the various ministries to get a handle on the present state of play within those entities, undertake a review of programs and policies, portfolio of contracts and list of senior and middle managers and their functions.

Each team must prepare a report that will be used in addition to the ones presented earlier to the Prime Minister by the Cabinet Secretary and Permanent Secretaries to properly brief the new ministers.

A second step is to identify public servants who were victimised, pushed around, placed on a desk or in an office doing nothing for many years and either return them to their substantive positions or place them in positions where they can function effectively in accordance with their experience and training.

These officers are quite competent and experienced, however they failed to meet the former Prime Minister’s trustworthy litmus test and were deemed not to be supporters of his party.

The cronies and sycophants of the former Prime Minister must be removed from sensitive positions in senior and middle management and deployed elsewhere in the service.

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell and his team must not make the mistake of the last NDC government of allowing these persons to remain in key positions where they were able to sabotage and frustrate the government.

A third step would be to do a thorough review of the personnel in all ministries to identify qualified competent young officers who were overlooked for promotions and place them in suitable positions where their skills set can be properly utilized.

In addition to identification of personnel, consideration ought to be given to the collective synergies among the top management team and how those synergies complement the incoming ministers.

The new Prime Minister must also consider possible risks in building his administration. He ought to be aware that some of his advisors, though well intentioned, may have their own agendas or axe to grind with persons being given consideration for positions.

He must be able to contain these impulses once he recognises them for his aim is to put together a competent, experienced team of administrators that will help his government to implement its priority indicators.

The Prime Minister must not underestimate the pervasive, corrosive and corrupt culture that has taken over the public service. Some ministries including Finance, Health and Foreign Affairs and departments such as the Implementation Unit and Chief Technical Officer function in the Ministry of Works, Physical Planning Unit, Customs, Inland Revenue Department, Accountant General office and Procurement Unit in the Ministry of Finance, Hospital Services and Covid-19 implementation function in the Ministry of Health, Lands and Survey department, Ministry of Agriculture, the SEED program in Ministry of Social Development, Immigration Office, and Chief Protocol Officer function, ambassadors and diplomatic missions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have to be looked at very carefully by the small transitions teams.

The Prime Minister can’t overlook how easy it is for a Permanent Secretary, senior officer or low level public officer to frustrate his government programs by hiding a document in a desk or deep in a file at the registry or not taking appropriate action or responding in a timely manner.

If he doesn’t move to cleanse the public service including statutory bodies, which I haven’t touched on as yet, elements of the defeated government and their sycophants will be able to set up deep state parallel operations within the service to sabotage his government.

There are also the opportunist elements who operate as chameleons in the wild, able to change their colour when government changes. Some of them have already started to sing as a’ songbird’ about how the defeated leader is allegedly bad, greedy and corrupt.

The question is ‘whey de dey day’ when all of that was taking place. After eating, “lamb Jam and ham” for two decades they want to continue the ‘gravy train’ in the absence of the government they supported and benefitted immensely from in return.

These are some of the more dangerous elements that can compromise and corrupt young, less experienced Cabinet members and I wish to urge the young Prime Minister to caution his Cabinet ministers to be aware of wise men from the South East and West bearing gifts. A word to the wise is enough.

Once a bold vision is identified and campaign promises are translated into strategic goals, Cabinet ministers sworn in, and top managers put in place in various ministries the administration members can now roll up their sleeves and begin planning for implementation of their programs and initiatives.

However, Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell has to guard against his ministers becoming occupied with specific policy issues through a ‘policy silo lens’ rather than a broader perspective in light of the cross cutting policy issues that spans multiple ministries.

He must also thoroughly think through the above mentioned complexities and understand the mistakes and missteps of the last NDC government in order to put his government on the right path.

For once the young brilliant Prime Minister and his transition team get it right, that is design the administration and set it up to deliver on election promises and policy priorities his government will be empowered to succeed to the benefit of all citizens.

Special Correspondent