On assuming office in 2015, the Granger Administration made it clear that all public servants must take their annual leave. The administration argued that the payout of accumulated annual leave presented a financial burden on the treasury and such practices will no longer be tolerated. Fast forward to July 2020, it seems that this order was completely ignored or selectively applied.
As reported in various sections of the media, Army Chief of Staff, Brigadier Patrick West proceeded on pre-retirement leave on July 1, 2020. However, Com-missioner of Police, Leslie James and Deputy Commissioner of Police, Maxine Graham are still on the job even though they should have also proceeded on pre-retirement leave in June 2020. This begs the question of why Brigadier West was directed to proceed on pre-retirement leave and not Commissioner James and Deputy Commissioner Graham?
While it has been customary for senior public servants in Guyana to proceed on a lengthy pre-retirement leave and/or seek payout for accumulated annual leave, such practice harms the effectiveness and efficiency of the public service and by extension the country. Mandatory annual leave allows employees to recharge their body and mind thus allowing them to return rejuvenated and ready to tackle their duties and responsibilities with efficacy. It also allows employees to self-reflect and gain perspective. A well-rested employee has the energy to be creative, focused, and consistent in the discharge of their duties and responsibilities.
It also allows for cross-training and knowledge transfer where subordinates get an opportunity to gain experience and practice handling new and/or higher-level duties and responsibilities. This is important given any unforeseen circumstances where employees may be suddenly thrust into a position of leadership. Perhaps the most important reason to ensure annual leave is taken when due is that it offers a time to review performance. Mandatory annual leave serves as a form of checks and balances where issues or problems have a chance to surface while an employee is on vacation. Thus, an organization can evaluate employees and identify any improprieties that may have taken place. Hence, mandatory annual leave is an essential internal control.
With Brigadier West, Commissioner James, and Deputy Commissioner Graham accumulating approximately nine, ten, and six months of annual leave, respectively, one has to wonder what was so important to preclude them from consistently taking their annual leave over the years and disregarding such an important control? Was the increased rhetoric from Venezuela the reason? While this might help explain the rationale behind Brigadier West’s accumulated leave, it does not explain that of Commissioner James and Deputy Commissioner Graham. Also, if this is the case, is there a lack of trust in the junior officers to act temporarily in their superior’s absence? Was it the poor security conditions in the country? If this is the reason, one can only imagine what would have happened if these individuals took their leave in a timely manner. Surely, it cannot be the security surrounding the March 2 elections. It would have taken multiple years to accrue the number of days reported.
This brings us back to the question of why Brigadier West was directed to proceed on pre-retirement leave and not Commissioner James and Deputy Com-missioner Graham? Given everything that has taken place in Guyana since the March 2 elections, it seems highly suspicious that approval to proceed on annual leave was given to Brigadier West while the two senior police officers both of whom were also promoted under the Granger Administration remain on the job. It makes one wonder what plans are afoot following the expected ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). From all indications, David Granger and his cohorts seem determined to hold on to power at all costs. Only time will tell if he will use the army and police to subvert the democratic process and will of the people.