It is wise and commendable that the New PPP/C Government has re-established the Public Service Ministry, and has declared, through the new Minister of the Public Service, Hon. Sonia Parag, that this Ministry would be developed into a Professional, Neutral, Politically Impartial, and Efficient Public Service.
In this regard, it would be useful for the Minister and the senior staff to review the report and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the Public Service with a view to adopt and implement the recommendation of report. This report was submitted to President David Granger in May 2016 by Professor Harold Lutchman, Chair of the three – member Commission with Mr. Samuel J. Goolsarran, and the late Ms. Sandra Jones as Commissioners.
The report was also circulated to Members of the National Assembly for debate and consideration. There was no debate following disagreement between the Government and Opposition on referring the report to a selected Committee of the National Assembly.
The Recommendations include:
1. The enactment of a Public Service Law with related Regulations and a code of conduct to create and develop a professional and politically neutral Public Service with high integrity for effective public management and administration.
2. The Public Service Commission (PSC) be constituted always with suitably qualified persons of high integrity to be fair and impartial in the execution of their duty in line with the Constitutional prescription that they exercise independent judgment and not be influenced by political and other external considerations and influences.
3. The Constitution and other Laws should be appropriately amended to empower the Public Service Commission to appoint, on open internal and external completion and merit, Permanent Secretaries and Regional Executive Officers., and all other appointments to established Public Service positions. Correspondingly, the Public Service Ministry and the staff of the entire Public Service should be constituted with professional personnel with high integrity to rebuild trust and confidence in the Public Service.
4. Contract employment of low level and general staff in the Public Service should end. However, contract employment in the Public Service should be restricted to high level, professional, scarce skills not available in the Public Service, and for project work.
5. There should be higher retirement age of 60 and 65 for public servants with corresponding higher public service and NIS pensions.
6. There should be a high-level representative Committee to identify, on the basis of merit, candidates to be awarded fellowships and scholarships.
7. The Public Service compensation system should be reviewed and redesigned within an attractive and appropriate graded salary structure with the involvement of the recognised Trade Union.
8. A Salary and Remuneration Commission be established to make recommendations to the National Assembly on remuneration for high level political and public service offices including the President, Vice-Presidents, Prime Minister, Ministers, Leader of the Opposition, Members of the National Assembly, Permanent Secretaries, Regional Executive Officers, and Regional Chairpersons.
9. Role and Function of the Public Service
The COI stated that a review of the earlier inquiries and studies into the Public Service and many who testified before this Commission, advocated for the Public Service to be impartial, neutral, professional, non-partisan, non-political, serving the public interest in keeping with the rule of law – the Constitution and other laws of the land, International Treaties and Conventions within the frame work of Constitutional fundamental rights. These principles are in line with Article 38G of the Constitution states that:
“(1) The Integrity of the public service is guaranteed. No public officer shall be required to execute or condone irregular acts on the basis of higher orders.
(2) The freedom of every public officer to perform his or her duties and fulfill his or her responsibilities is protected.
(3) No public officer shall be subject of sanctions of any kind without due process.
(4) In the discharge of his or her duties, a public officer shall execute the lawful policies of the government.”
- The Permanent Secretary and Professional Relations with Ministers
The COI emphasized that the public administration system, in line with the Constitution, Article 115 and other laws, mandate that where any Minister has the responsibility for any department of government, shall exercise general direction and control over that department and, subject to such direction and control, every department of government shall be under the supervision of a Permanent Secretary. This direction and control is of a general and policy nature. While the Minister is primarily concerned with the determination of policy, the Permanent Secretary and the technical and other staff under the Permanent Secretary are required to faithfully implement the policy decisions of the Government of the day in an impartial and professional manner.
The COI reminded that the Permanent Secretary assists the Minister in the formulation of policies, prepares papers for Cabinet, and is also the Accounting Officer who manages and is accountable for the funds voted by National Assembly for the ministerial departments, and is answerable to the Public Accounts Committee of National Assembly for public expenditure. These duties and responsibilities have not changed since the PSC Circular No 46 of 1966, embodying an extract from a speech from then Prime Minister, L.F.S. Burnham which stated in part with reference to the Permanent Secretary’s responsibility as the Accounting Officer: “… A Minister should never therefore give instructions for expenditure to be incurred on any project without prior consultation with his Permanent Secretary to ascertain that appropriate funds are available…”
Similarly, in a letter dated 5 May 1989 to Permanent Secretaries, President Desmond Hoyte stated that under the Constitution, Permanent Secretaries had the responsibility to manage their Ministries, to advise their Ministers, to help the Ministers in the formulation of policies, and the effective management of the resources of personnel, finance, stores, plant, machinery, equipment, vehicles and buildings. The letter further stated that, “…No Minister has authority to direct a Permanent Secretary to ignore the law or to breach regulations and directives governing the administration of finances, the use of Government property, etc. Indeed, no Minister has the power to direct a Permanent Secretary to commit any other act that is unlawful or otherwise irregular…”
Bertrand Collins Public Administration College: The function of this entity should be sub-summed and absorbed into the Public Service Ministry Training Division. There is no need for a duplicated function, which is the remit of the Public Service Training Division.
The above recommendations are essential for good governance and public management and public administration of the Public Service, fair employment practices, and developing a professional Public Service to serve the national community fairly without political and racial/ethnic discrimination; a Public Service, which can make Guyana proud.