June 13, 2008
Dont criticize politicians for getting involved in Public Service

Politicians should not be criticized for being attentive to what is happening in the public service seeing that when problems arise it is their futures that are at stake.{{more}}

This is according to the Executive Director of the Caribbean Centre for Development Administration (CARICAD), Jennifer Astaphan, who spoke to SEARCHLIGHT after the opening ceremony of the two-day regional conference of public service commissions, which was held at the Prime Minister’s residence, Old Montrose, last Tuesday, June 10.

Astaphan said that it is easy for persons to cry political interference when a politician gets too involved in what is taking place in the public service, she however sees it as wisdom on their part.

“It is them that have to answer to the parliament, it is them that have to face the general elections,” she said.

She said that it is a problem however, when politicians direct the appointment of people who are incompetent for political reasons.

When she addressed the participants and other guests at the ceremony, Astaphan said the public service must change as it faces the challenges of globalization and move towards regional integration.

“The reality of globalization and moves towards regional integration make it clear that we could no longer be business as usual in the public service. Our horizon must change, our strategies and approaches must also change,” she said.

During his keynote address at the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said that while people feel the Prime Minister should not have the veto power as it regards the appointment of permanent secretaries and the Commissioner of Police, it is in fact a desirable situation.

“You wouldn’t want to be Prime Minister and have a Permanent Secretary or a Commissioner of Police who is opposed to you and is dedicated to the subversion of your government,” Dr Gonsalves said.

He however noted that during the current constitutional review process here, the feeling that too much power rests in the hands of the Prime Minister is being examined.

He pointed to the need for a level of professionalism, a culture of tolerance and understanding to prevail in the performance of public servants so that even if they don’t support a government they can do their work professionally.

Dr Gonsalves listed 20 “anti-development elements” that hurt the public service. Included on the list is the problem of wastage in the public service, petty divisions in the public service, undue political interference and the inability of the system to adapt swiftly and efficiently to change.

Dr Gonsalves also chided what he termed “impression management” in the public service. He said that this refers to persons who give good impressions, look busy and impressive, but when a closer examination is made of their performance they are found wanting.

When he addressed the opening ceremony, chairman of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Public Service Commission, attorney Cecil “Blazer” Williams said that the public service is being called upon to serve modern, educated, populations while dealing with international organizations which set certain standards of performance and compliance for governments.

He noted that the creation of corporations and joint public/private sectors entities “have effectively reduced the reach of the Public Service Commission.” (KJ)