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Claudette Joseph: “The public service as we inherited it is almost decimated”

Sen. Joseph – The Public Service was operating on autopilot under the NNP regime

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Senator Claudette Joseph has said that the incoming National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration has inherited a serious Human Resource deficit within the Public Service that was left behind by the outgoing New National Party (NNP) administration of Dr. Keith Mitchell.

“The public service as we inherited it is almost decimated,” said Sen. Joseph as she reported on the early days in office of the new Dickon Mitchell-led government.

She said that many public officers who worked in the service several years ago will definitely not be able to recognise it at the moment.

‘We found a Public Service with a large percentage of unestablished workers – now these are people who were brought into the service oftentimes with just a letter and nothing more, not a letter issued by the Public Service Commission, a letter maybe by a PS or a Minister and nothing more,” she said.

According to Minister Joseph, the task ahead for the new NDC government “is to build on what we found and to return the public service to the prestige that it once had or attracted, the best, brightest Grenadians.”

She pointed out that some of the employees in the public service have been in their position for 15 and 20 years while there are others who have been “almost serving out the full 26-and two-thirds years which would qualify them for pension and still being unestablished and working for the same salary that they started off with at the beginning.”

The female government minister disclosed that in most cases these workers do not even get a salary more than $1500.00 a month.

In addition, she said that some workers in the public service are in acting positions and holding a lower post in the service while others are known to be acting in higher positions but not getting the remuneration that goes with the job title.

Sen. Joseph also alluded to another category of public servants who are engaged through various forms of contract to do all kinds of work in the service.

She said the reality of the situation is that NDC has inherited a public service in which “our patriots in the Public Service, our Brothers and sisters in the Public Service are being demoralised, no prospect for promotion, confirmation for pension and therefore the country was not getting the best out of our public workers.”

She cited the case of some “critical departments” in the service such as the Supreme Court and the offices that serve the Judicial system which were completely ignored by the former NNP regime.

According to Minister Joseph, the area of court reporting was badly affected as the unit which required a staff of about 10 persons had only “one certified court reporter.”

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She said that persons who filed appeals in their matters before the court, especially those against their convictions and sentences would actually serve out the whole term in prison before their appeal is heard as one person cannot prepare all the transcript for the numerous appeal hearings.

She added that even persons with Civil matters before the court are forced to wait several years for their matters to be heard.

‘We inherited about 135 cases in that state waiting on appeal (and) no end in sight,” she said.

The senior government minister painted a similar situation existing in other operations of government like the Ministry of Agriculture where all of the top positions are vacant such as the post of Director of Research, Chief Land Use Officer, Chief Extension Officer, Chief Agronomist, Chief Forestry Officer as well as several other junior positions.

She highlighted the situation within the Department of Consumer Affairs that was established in 2018 by the former NNP regime and virtually all the positions that were created just remained vacant.

“We recently got Cabinet approval to fill those positions,” she said.

According to Minister Joseph, the human resource deficit within the public service also impacted within the Ministry of Education especially in the primary schools where it was discovered that 18 of the 56 schools are without Guidance Counsellors and that only 29% of schools had Truancy Officers and only 2 School Feeding officers employed to service the entire country.

She indicated that provisions were made in the budget to hire sufficient School Feeding Officers but for some inexplicable reason the workers were never employed by the Keith Mitchell-led government.

The Minister also touched on the Department of Labour, stating that of the 22 positions that existed only three were filled and the rest remained vacant for years including the post of Deputy Labour Commissioner.

She said the last person to hold the position of Deputy Labour Commissioner is the current Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Adrian “Persuader” Thomas who resigned from the position in 2013.

Minister Joseph charged that to a large extent “our country was operating on autopilot.”

Within the past month, the government has appointed Valerie Thomas as the new Labour Commissioner to replace Reginald Lord who was acting in the position for three months, as the holder of the position Cyrus Griffith who had reached retirement age but was kept on the job on a monthly basis was terminated following regime change.

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