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Open Secret in the Public Service Exposed

Open Secret in the Public Service Exposed

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The recent judgement by Justice Esco Henry in the matter brought by the Public Service Union (PSU) against the Public Service Commission (PSC) highlights an open secret in St Vincent and the Grenadines — senior public servants do not like to write adverse reports about other public servants, and very rarely do.

The permanent secretaries and heads of department would rather frustrate the system and the public servants concerned by transferring them from department to department, rather than documenting the problem and trying to bring about some resolution.

The PSU brought a case to the High Court, accusing the PSC of failing to comply with regulations governing promotions within the Public Service. The PSU charged that in relation to promotions, the PSC acted without due regard to the principles of fairness, transparency and objectivity.

It appears from the judgement (https://www.eccourts.org/public-service-union-of-mackies-hill-v-public-service-commission/) that the PSC hardly put up a defence and seemed unable to produce documentation to prove that the procedure followed was fair, transparent and objective.

Justice Henry made the point in her judgement that a reporting system that relies on word of mouth cannot be relied upon and is “untrustworthy” and “flawed”.

This High Court judgement supports the points made by SEARCHLIGHT in an editorial on June 22, 2018 when we commented on a call by the Prime Minister for members of the public to make reports directly to his office on the non-performance of public officers. We made the point then and we make it again now that there is a breakdown in supervision and management at various levels of the Public Service.

Justice Henry’s judgement therefore should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention.

We said in that earlier editorial: “Rather than open the gates for everyone who feels aggrieved to flood his office with calls, the Prime Minister should be directing his attention to the permanent secretaries and heads of departments who refuse to write letters documenting the shortcomings of delinquent workers; and to the practice in the public service of transferring or even promoting problematic public servants, rather than dealing with the root cause of problems. There is also the issue of political appointees within the public service who feel untouchable and in many cases let their supervisors know who ‘put them in the job’.”

We repeat now what we said then; a conclusion which has also been arrived at by the learned judge: The problem within the Public Service calls for the executive to look inward at the hiring, promotion and appointment procedures and the performance of those who manage the Public Service.

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