The New Today

Letters

The clean-up drive

The Prime Minister of Grenada was very straight forward during the retreat session with Senior Managers, especially Permanent Secretaries and other senior Managers in the Public Service that the transformational mandate that his administration spoke about in the NDC manifesto must be executed diligently in order to realise the administration transformational agenda.

As an observer who seeks to give “my two pence” I am very proud that the PM brought forward this point. The Public Service of Grenada is and should be the beacon to shine a bright light in the midst of darkness upon the workforce of the country. The service should be impartial and should seek to uphold the element of Merit within its undertakings.

The Public Service Commission is a viable and democratic arm of the government. Its objective I would think is to ensure that persons who are appointed into whatever position should be a professional and should seek to deliver high quality service to the industry.

It also acts as a body that should seek to protect the workers’ rights from spite and victimisation of politicians.

The senior managers first and foremost should be aware that they are not politicians but servants of the public, hence the phrase “Public Servants”.

Quite a number of senior officers use their positions to victimise, bully, and initiate all sorts of spite upon their fellow colleagues (juniors).

A Permanent Secretary could use and abuse his or her office and make decisions against a staff member under his or her watch. Such a decision when taken can be very detrimental to that staff member and can result in suffering for that member for the rest of his or her life in the service. (Lots of vindictiveness in the service).

Also there have been instances in the past where Permanent Secretaries were appointed in the position due to political favours and not necessarily qualifications and institutional knowledge. These Permanent Secretaries instead of providing good governance in the execution of their duties, most times they use their office as a tool to victimise others whom they deem as a threat to them.

Some of these very P.S do not even have a good grasp of the Staff Orders no wonder why many of them as reporting officers go contrary to the rules of the Public Service Commission.

And so I would believe that the mandate of the Public Service Commission is to appoint Permanent Secretaries into an acting position in the first instance until they further improve their qualifications and prove themselves in the office that was assigned to them.

Some Permanent Secretaries, due to their political links, feel comfortable to do as they please and expect that a string should be pulled for and on their behalf by their political masters.

The Public Service Commission and by extension the Cabinet Secretary who is the immediate boss of all Permanent Secretaries should be very sober minded regarding recommendations for confirmation in the position of Permanent Secretaries.

Deliverables are very important for such consideration for confirmation. (Many of these senior managers should never be confirmed blindly in their position until they have proven themselves worthy of such promotion.

  • Some politicians in the past (not sure of presently) did indicate that they have an open door policy. A policy where anyone irrespective to colour, position or creed can just call their Minister. This policy was also adopted allegedly by some senior managers. What is the real benefit of this “open door policy”?

This open-door policy is and could never have been for any good purpose, except for news-mongering. News mongering allegedly had become the mainstream policy for some senior managers.

In some cases you may find that some senior officers will call a Junior Officer and rag him or her up after they become privy of some information. They utilise malice, spite, and censorship upon a colleague who does not fit in the order of things. This will sound far-fetched but even senior managers spy on other senior managers and take news to their political bosses.

You may ask this question – do these things really take place in the Civil Service? My answer is yes. A big and bold yes!

The Service, though it was alleged to be infiltrated in the past by politicians, seemingly is above the turbulent waters that almost drowned it a few years ago. As an observer I have seen that the service is now being governed by mature persons who understand the intricacies and inner workings of the public service.

These are persons in my opinion who will stand and protect the integrity of the service irrespective of any political and unbiased decisions or recommendations made by politicians and senior managers.

There are still lots to be done in the service but the public should be educated that the execution of any matter relating to contracts, appointments, confirmation etc must come from the Department of Public Administration (DPA)

The Department of Public Administration is the streamline agency that works between the senior managers and the public service. The arm of the DPA is very vital as it relates to bias against merit.

Some senior managers will do anything to recommend to DPA persons of their liking, recommending and seeking promotion and regularisation for their “friend” and refusing to extend the same courtesy for other staff members who deserve to be promoted or confirmed in their position.

DPA is the eye that searches for loopholes in the system. Having observed DPA actions for the past three years or so I can safely say that the management strategy that was developed in this Department as it relates to the monitoring of loopholes in the system was well addressed.

Some senior managers are very good in even beating the system that they pledged to serve and upheld. As I indicated before, some senior managers act as if they are politicians. They have the ability given the position that they acquired as managers, can easily mislead their immediate bosses (politicians) and would hoodwind them in ensuring that their mandates are not executed.

At times they do not create a high level of professional brief to the politicians and run the ministry as though it belongs to them. Some experienced politicians would pick up on such and would recommend a change of Permanent Secretary.

The reshuffling process of Permanent Secretaries is vital for the smooth functionality of Ministries. Nevertheless it is alleged that some Permanent Secretaries are set in their ways and will transport their baggage in whatever Ministry they are assigned to.

The Organisation Chart within the government structure is very simple to follow;

  • First the Minister
  • Then the Permanent Secretary
  • Then the Heads of Department
  • Then the SAO
  • Personnel Officers, Financial Officers, Secretary to the Minister, Secretary to the P.S, Secretary to the HOD etc. So in essence once the chain of command is not compromised then there would be fluidity within the system, but when protocols are being broken one should expect chaos in the system.

A simple example could be cited where a junior staff in a department sidelined his immediate supervisor and consults with a Permanent Secretary. The open door policy spoken about before is in action in relation to the above episode.

The Permanent Secretary in this case should reference this junior staff to his/her immediate supervisor. That can’t happen because of the power of the “open door policy.” No wonder why respect for Heads of Departments and other senior managers is at its lowest level in the public service.

Overall, the public officer should show his or her loyalty to the Public Service Commission and not to any politician.

The public officer should understand foremost that politicians come and go but the public officer remains until the time of retirement, breaks service to enter into the private the public sector, or to be self-employed. The loyalty given to the politicians allows senior managers to bring news to politicians on other officers, whether junior or senior.

Permanent Secretaries need to be properly trained for this job in order for them to fulfil their mandates effectively. I should say however that the thrust to initiate training for other officers in the public service is very low. As an observer I witnessed the rights of other officers being trampled by some vindictive Permanent Secretaries.

Related:  Corruption in the public service

There is a literal FEAR in the hearts of some public officers for Permanent Secretaries. Some Permanent Secretaries in my observation seemingly act as “lords of the rings.” The “YES P.S” syndrome seemingly enters their “HEAD” and drowns their faculty and ability to see themselves as public officers also.

Some staffers become timid of some Permanent Secretaries because they understand quite well what a Permanent Secretary is capable of doing to a member of staff. They could kill your upward mobility in the service if you are not in their favour. They taunt officers so much to the extent just to frustrate them to say or do something un- ethical.

Once that pressure becomes too overbearing and the officer reacts negatively, that’s when the letter of insubordination will reach the staffer desk. Some Heads of Departments do the same thing. Building up a case against the staffer which will not be to the staffer’s benefit especially during the appraisal process.

I hope this form of fear by persons in the service for Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Departments will be a thing of the past. (Notwithstanding that members of staff must show the greatest of respect for his/her immediate supervisor) That justice and merit should reign in the service. Too many bosses.

I hereby observe that right about now the directors at the helm of the Public Service Commission are of high reputation, full of experience and have acquired a wealth of institutional knowledge. These directors in my opinion understand the working of the Public Service Commission and have steered the way forward in the service with professionalism and trust. (Institutional knowledge is key for the advancement of any institution).

Suffice to say; I suggest that the Dickon Mitchell-led administration should focus its attention to also have training retreats for junior officers in the service. Why? Because training junior officers in the areas of the Staff Orders will grant them a better appreciation for the position that they hold as PUBLIC OFFICERS.

There are certain things that a public officer could do and cannot do, as well as should do, and should not do. So, training of junior officers in this capacity will create a great level of professionalism within the service – persons will have to like their jobs.

And when junior officers are trained and become aware of what is expected of them in the service, then their job will be more meaningful and the officer’s self-esteem will be elevated.

The results will just be a great public service with highly trained public officers. By training and job appreciation, what will follow next is production.

Staff Order (2)
All Public Officers are required to familiarise themselves thoroughly with these orders. The orders should therefore be readily available to all officers in every department and it’s the duty of the Head of Department to ensure that a sufficient number of copies is always on hand to meet the needs of his or her own Department.

So, in order to realise your dream, of your transformational agenda Mr. Prime Minister, you need first and foremost to provide training (retreat) not only for Senior Managers. The service cannot function only by Senior Managers. It begins with “below” before it comes on “top”.

And so it must never be forgotten that a certain category of junior persons, some of which were contracted by the Government and placed in certain Ministries in the service, and called by the name IMANI, is another sector within the public sector that should get some serious attention.

Needless to say that the power vested in the Public Service Commission was severely compromised due to the fact that such power unwittingly was then translated to the officers or senior managers.

Permanent Secretaries as well as Head of Departments were dishing out contracts to persons as a kind of award. These persons became loyalists to some P.S but much more to the politicians. They were allegedly used as a “News Tool” planted inside the program to spy upon senior managers. No wonder, why was it dubbed all over the service that “those Imanis that are doing the jobs in the various ministries’ ‘.

That some senior persons just sit by and allow those Imanis to get the job done. It was also alleged that some of those very Imanis had no spontaneous respect for senior managers because as the saying goes “the Ministers have their backs”. And so it was a case where some Imanis felt untouchable.

Senior managers were fearful to initiate any form of discipline upon them because of the fear they would tell their Minister. And due to all these internal ramblings, the public service received a jab jab stain that will seemingly take years to be erased.

The power that should be vested with the Public Service Commission as was previously stated has been transferred to senior managers. I am not saying that there should not be or cannot have any “internal arrangements” within the staff structure that would benefit the department, but when a worker receives a contract from his immediate boss, or from a Permanent Secretary that worker’s loyalty is focused upon his boss or Permanent Secretary.

I spoke of workers being fearful of Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Departments, well the aforementioned sentence is a good example. In essence, because of the powers that are now seemingly vested within the domains of Permanent Secretaries and other senior managers, the Public Service Commission in one way or another seems redundant.

As was previously mentioned the Public Service Commission acts as a mediator between the public servant and the politician. If there is no Public Service Commission then public servants can and will surely experience the highest level of victimisation and spite by some callous politicians.

In some instances due to political infiltration inside the public service it seems powerless at times to execute its functions effectively, but this institution is a very important institution that once managed professionally will do justice and will protect the interest of its public servants.

No longer should senior managers abuse the powers that are vested in them. No longer should fear for Permanent Secretaries be the order of the day. No longer should a worker live his or her life with a hammer over his or her head wondering about the job appraisal results.

The appraisal system is very essential as it relates to public officers performance within the service, or in the department, but some senior managers use it as a tool to flex their muscle and authority over the public servants. That’s why I suggested that junior managers should also be trained so as to know their rights in the service. So long live the Public Service Commission.

In conclusion as an observer I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the cleaning up process within the apparatus structures of the Government is the best way forward. There is a way that seems right to persons but the end therefore is the ways of chaos and confusion.

I am keenly aware that persons are clamouring for this clean-up process to be initiated with a level of urgency due to the alleged negligence of the last NDC Administration.

My question is therefore – is every public officer an NNP activist? Is every senior manager in the service paying allegiance and loyalty to the NNP REGIME? Does every senior and junior manager exhibit levels of corruption, be it large or small?

I asked these questions because as an avid observer I noticed the pace of the rooting up process, as well as the replacement process is unabated. I shudder to think, and I am afraid, greatly afraid that while trying to root up the “tares” that in the process this administration will not root up the “wheat”. (Wisdom is the principal thing…in all thy getting. Get wisdom.

The Observer