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A public service on the decline

The Ministerial Complex at the Botanical Gardens is home to most of the public officers in the service

Trust me this Public Service is dying a slow death.

This was the lament of a senior retired public officer who expressed fears that the almost one-year old National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration of Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell will run into a number of stumbling blocks in its efforts to transform Grenada due to a shortage of quality persons at the helm of the Public Service especially at the level of Permanent Secretary.

Speaking to THE NEW TODAY over the weekend, the former high profile civil servant said the quality of people that is now running the service is quite frankly much to be desired.

“You have PSs who don’t know what they are about – PS when pressure falls on them they take a week or two weeks of holiday,” he said of these people who are not prepared to confront the problems head-on.

The retired senior officer expressed fear that the system will eventually come to a halt if nothing is done by the Congress government in short order to arrest the situation.

He said it is interesting to note that the Dickon Mitchell-led regime still has the same cadre of people around manning the operations of government activities.

He feared that these public officers will be prepared “to do the same dam thing if NNP comes back in power.”

“If the government doesn’t get its act together, if the government doesn’t remove people like (name withheld) and some of those PSs that facilitated the corruption and (are) now frustrating the efforts of the government in a very sinister way, while trying to play up to them, the situation (for the government) could change within a year or two,” he said.

According to the retired senior officer, the NDC government runs the risk of failure if steps are not taken to address the incompetence in the top echelon of the public service.

He called for bold steps to be taken similar to what was done by the 1979-83 People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of late Marxist leader Maurice Bishop which moved quickly to develop a new cadre of Permanent Secretaries especially among younger members of the public service.

He recalled the introduction of St Lucia-born Dr. Didacus Jules, the current Director General of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) who was brought in to serve as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education.

He said the PRG also promoted some “middle level people” to the level of PS and some of them were able to excel on the job.

The retiree charged that some of the current PSs are only two to three years away from retirement, and one option available is to send these officers home on holiday, offer them early retirement and bring some “young dynamic middle-level managers and make them Permanent Secretaries.

He suggested that former Cabinet Secretary Gemma Bain-Thomas who served in the position during the 2008-13 period in government of the Congress administration of Tillman Thomas can be tapped to come back along with another competent retired PS to help train the new batch of top public officers in the service.

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He called for the creation of “an apprenticeship programme where the likes of Bain-Thomas “will be hand-holding these young people and guide them so that they can come up to speed quickly.”

“They (NDC government) have to do something dramatic – it can’t be shuffling because if you’re shuffling, you are shuffling a bad pack and you won’t get any new positive outcome out of it.” he said.

“That’s the kind of approach that they have to take if they want to turn things around – that’s what the Revolution did. You just can’t be shuffling around a bad pack – you ain’t going to get results out of that and that is the mistake they are making,” he added.

The retired public officer went on to say: “Unless they take stock and say look, we have to be dramatic and transformative, we have to take a bold stand, nothing will happen. Unless they are dramatic – take a revolutionary stand and say look we need to stem this tide of erosion and make some serious decisions you won’t get any benefits and it is going to impact on their delivery of their programmes. That is what needs to happen.

According to the ex-government employee, after the collapse of the Grenada Revolution a similar approach was used to build back capacity in the service and training was provided through the British for a number of public officers in the 1980’s.

He mentioned former Attorney General Cajeton Hood and current member of the Public Service Commission (PSC), Bernard Antoine who were attached to the newly created Department of Personnel and Management Service (DPMS).

He also said that the nation must stop placing all the blame on politicians for wrongdoing in the system but to look at some Permanent Secretaries for facilitating the illegal acts.

He indicated that some persons who engage in questionable contract deals with ministers can only be paid for doing the work through the approval of the Permanent Secretary who is the accounting officer in the Line Ministry.

The retiree told THE NEW TODAY that a lot of suspicious things that were done by the former New National Party (NNP) administration of defeated Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell could not have been done “without the agreement and facilitation by these civil servants.”

“You cannot get pay without a PS signing off on it, without the Accountant General signing off,” he said.

“So why are we spitting fire on the politicians and not also spitting fire on the public servants who facilitate a lot of that,” he added.

The retired public officer warned Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell to expect what he referred to as “some challenges coming down the pipe.”

He said the possibility exists that Republic Bank, which took over the operations of Scotiabank in the country, is already signaling its intention to lay off about 70 workers as part of a rationalisation process.

In addition, he hinted that the same thing could happen with staffers following the purchase of the business of FirstCaribbean International Bank (FCIB) by the Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited (GCBL).

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