“The onus is on individuals to inform the Public Service Ministry (PSM) that they have completed their mandated years of service” said Minister Jennifer Westford, when she commented on the fact that some persons who had benefited from scholarships remain blacklisted years after serving their country.
This state-of affairs was highlighted by Editor-In-Chief of this newspaper, Mr Adam Harris, in his weekly column, ‘My Column’ under the headline ‘Who needs this embarrassment?’ which was published in the last Sunday Special.
Harris in his column cited specific instances whereby persons had to face immense embarrassment when they learnt that they were still blacklisted when they attempted to travel abroad.
Harris’s column highlighted that there has been some level of miscommunication, which has been ongoing for almost four decades and added “the Public Service Ministry seems incapable of getting things right when it comes to its scholarship awardees.” In fact he had alluded to the fact that the miscommunication may have been allowed to continue over the years, as there has been no legal action taken.
But according to the Minister, in an invited comment yesterday, the PSM is not tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that stamps affixed to the passports of scholarship awardees are removed after they would have given their service to the country.
The stamp affixed to the passport is an indication that such persons cannot travel abroad as they have not honoured their contractual obligation to the government.
Minister Westford explained that after an individual completes a scholarship overseas, then he or she is assigned by the PSM to various agencies to complete their contractual obligation.
“If that individual leaves before completing their obligation or even if they complete their time, sometimes the agency may write to us informing us, but not always. So unless they (scholarship awardees) come in to us, we most often will not know what their status is.”
As such, the Minister disclosed that most persons as soon as their contract is close to completion would write to the Ministry informing of their status in anticipation of having their passports processed earlier.
On completion of the contract, Minister Westford related that she is then tasked with inking a letter to the Immigration Department informing that entity that the scholarship awardee has completed his or her contractual obligation, thus allowing for the removal of the stamp.
“When I see a new blue file on my desk I know that it is a new scholarship awardee and when I see an old blue file I know it is somebody that has finished serving,” the Minister related.
And according to her, most persons do comply with the recommended procedure, adding that it is only a few individuals that have failed to comply over the years.
Commenting on a specific case highlighted in Harris’s column, the Minister noted that there is a vast amount of information that was not revealed in the article that could have proved that her Ministry operated based only on protocol, a practice which has remained constant over the years.
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