Posted on

Damning High Court Judgement re Public Officers


ON JUNE 27, 2018 my column was captioned “A View of the Public Service from Outside”.

It was in response to the PM’s call to the public to report directly to him about complaints with the public service.

I quoted from the editorial of the Searchlight newspaper that urged a closer look at the hiring, promotion and appointment procedures and performance of those who manage the public service. I indicated that those issues had long been festering and argued that “a happy and properly functioning public service is critical to any country’s development especially one where the state looms large”.

The High Court’s ruling given by Justice Esco Henry in the case brought against the Public Service Commission (PSC) by the Public Service Union (PSU) about its failure to observe principles of fairness, transparency and objectivity in the promotion of public servants therefore caught my attention, and hopefully also the nation’s.

What a damning report!

The PSU used the cases of five public servants to challenge the system of promotion. It was bad enough when Justice Henry stated that the PSC “failed to observe principles of fairness, transparency and objectivity in exercising its function” according to the regulations that govern the process of promotion, but when at least in one Ministry she concluded that the breach of regulations “was deliberate and intentional” then we are into serious business.

I supposed the government would have already responded to this although I am not aware of any. What we have here is a judgement about five public servants and one has to conclude that it also applies to others.

It is of interest that this judgement became public at a time when 85 police officers received promotion. One wonders if the issues raised in the Court’s judgement also applied to police officers.

Now that cases have been documented, there should be a call for a total revamp and closer examination of what happens with the Public Service Commission and in the public service. Persons were overlooked for promotion. One of the cases showed that one individual had not been promoted for 30 years. Not only were persons overlooked for promotion, but others were catapulted above senior persons with more experience and qualification. Along with all of this was that annual evaluation of workers either did not exist or was irregular.

Documentation and confidential reports about those who were to be considered for or in line for promotion were apparently not a regular part of the process. The PSC we are told, acted “without due regard to the principle of fairness, transparency and objectivity”. Moreover, there were “unreasonable delays and inconsistencies in the process.” There might even have been cases of nepotism.

This High Court judgement demands a quick and serious response.

First by the public service unions which need to bring forward other cases and to ensure, too, that proper procedures for promotion are observed. The government also has to act quickly for not only is this a stain on its governance, but it would have had a negative impact on the proper functioning of the Public Service. I have long felt that there was a great deal of dissatisfaction within the public service and with that obviously goes apathy and unproductivity. How does a public servant feel or react when a junior without his experience or qualification is promoted above him and he is asked to teach him the job?

The public service is central to the country’s development, so a satisfied and proper functioning public service is necessary not only for good governance but also critical to the country’s development. With the Court’s ruling, heads should now roll! But will they?

● Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian