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Isolating public officers from political influence

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THE PUBLIC SERVICE

PART 6

Dec.15.06

Achieving what it called “genuine isolation of public officers from political influence” is one of the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Commission on the public service. The other areas on which it made recommendations are related to the administration of the national security services. It also addressed calls for the creation of a Teaching Commission.

POLITICAL BUFFER

The Constitution provides for the creation of a Public Service Commission and a Police Service Commission which hire, fire, and discipline public officers and police officers respectively.{{more}}

However these supposedly “independent” bodies are appointed by the prime minister who has to “consult” with various bodies before advising the Governor General to appoint these people but he had no obligation to accept the advice of the bodies he consulted. The Governor General however is obligated to appoint the persons the prime minister “recommends”.

“The power given by the Constitution to the prime minister to determine which persons are appointed to those two bodies has aroused deeply felt concerns,” the Constitutional Review Commission report stated. “Even the present prime minister has criticised the Constitution as giving him too much power in that respect.”

As a result the commission has recommended that (a) The Chairman of the Public Service Commission should be appointed by the President in his own deliberate judgment; (b) One member of the Public Service Commission should be appointed by the President acting on the advice of NACE; (c) The other three members of the Public Service Commission should be appointed by the President acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, the Minority Leader; and the organisation representing the majority of public officers.

DISCIPLINARY CONTROL

There was also concern that the Commissioner of Police did not have disciplinary powers for those officers above the rank of sergeant. Neither do the Superintendent of Prisons of the Head of the proposed Immigration Service have disciplinary powers.

The commission has recommended that the various service commissions should confer with the respective head of the police, prisons, and immigration when dealing with disciplinary matters which are presently outside of their control.

TEACHING SERVICE

The creation of a separate Teaching Service Commission has also been recommended. Its members should be those appointed to the Public Service Commission with one member being appointed by the President acting on the advice of the organisation representing the majority of teachers.

POLICE

It was also recommended that the Police Service Commission be modified in a similar way that was proposed for the Public Service Commission.

Ambassadors, High Commissioners and other principal representatives of St Vincent and the Grenadines to other countries, or accredited to international organisations, should continue to be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.

The Judicial and Legal Services Commission should continue to be obliged to consult the Prime Minister before advising the President on the appointment of the Attorney General.

The review commission felt very strongly that the same person who is holding the office of Attorney General should not also hold the office of Director of Public Prosecutions and have so recommended.

“Contrary to the provisions of section 63(4) of the Constitution, under no circumstances should the same person be permitted to hold or act in the office of Director of Public Prosecutions whilst simultaneously holding or acting in the office of Attorney General,” the report stated.

The Chairman of the Public Service Board of Appeal should be appointed by the President acting in his deliberate judgment. The two other members of the Board should be appointed by the President acting on the advice of NACE. Before tendering such advice, NACE should consult with the organisations representing, respectively, the majority of public officers, policemen/policewomen, and teachers.

“Except in the case of disputes involving public officers or policemen/policewomen or teachers, in which any party seeks a remedy which is outside the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board of Appeal (as, for example, an injunction or a declaration that there has been a breach of one or more of the fundamental rights and freedoms), parties to disputes within the public service should be obliged to exhaust all of their remedies available from the Public Service Board of Appeal before applying to the law courts for remedies or reliefs,” the review commission also recommended.

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