With responsibilities such as the provision of health, security, and educational services, Guyana’s public service has a significant role to play in the development of this nation.
But even with this mammoth responsibility Guyana’s public service is apparently underperforming and therefore reforms are necessary to bring it up to standard.
These statements were made by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, during the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) 21st Biennial Delegates’ Conference held at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre. The convention came to an end on Friday.
During his remarks, Harmon opined that the public service played the crucial role of delivering services to the citizenry. He said too that the Guyana Government viewed the public service as “the engine of the executive”.
He continued, “The government cannot function without the public service; you are involved in one of the most important tasks of national life: the delivery of public service. To the nation, services such as education, health, public security and infrastructure all depend on your delivery.”
He further said that the quality of the public service is a key determinant of the quality of life in Guyana’s society. Therefore, he went on, the public service needed to be efficient to create an environment in which the populace can benefit from a good life.
“A good life is not possible in Guyana without good public service,” he added. He went on to stress that it is necessary to pay more attention to the purpose of the public service.
Furthermore, he said, the projected enhancement of the public service comes at a time when the country is embarking upon a process of democratic renewal and the pursuit of national unity. He said too that if there is to be an efficient public service then frank approaches must be taken to deal with issues.
He emphasised that things must not be “hidden under the carpet” but rather brought to light and worked upon.
“If we are to have an efficient public service, we must not pull punches; we must be frank about what we need,” he stressed.
Additionally, he said, a new approach to the type of public servants Guyana needs must be considered. “What we are going to do in a small space of time is to indicate a new roadmap for the type of public servants that we are looking for in this administration and in the administrations to come,” he explained.
He continued, “We need a public service that is reliable – reliable and accessible – that is responsive to the needs of our people.” He further said that these positive developments must occur in all regions of Guyana, “on the coast and in the hinterlands, in urban and rural Guyana”.
He also noted that the public service must serve as a conduit of historical knowledge and collective experience so as to facilitate the continuum of public life.
“You can’t have a public service that can’t remember things, that loses documents, that files documents in a wrong way and destroys documents. This is what we call the continuum in public life and this is the responsibility of a responsible public service,” he said.
He said that this knowledge and experience must be available to the political administration at any given time so that public policy can evolve in an ordered, progressive and developmental way.
However, he said, progress cannot be achieved if the public service does not comprise of persons with integrity and who are willing and able to give advice without fear, favour, partiality or prejudice. These persons must also possess strict administrative drive, Harmon added.
“We believe that this can only be achieved if the public service is firmly based on a system of merit and political impartiality. One of the criteria for promotion must be merit. What we must see here is that the public service is the servant of Guyana and is not the servant of any political party,” Harmon emphasised.
The Minister further stressed that the entire public service needed to be reformed.
Amongst the proposals for reforms were proper training, improved condition of service, and an upgrade of the essentials to facilitate the effective delivery of public service.
He said this process has already begun and the government is working to ensure that a different state of affair exists within the public service.
Additionally, Harmon indicated that the establishment of a Public Service College was on the front burner and was an essential part of the reform of the public service.
Harmon stressed that the public service must possess expert knowledge and high standards of academic education in order to discharge its function effectively.
He further said that a public service college has immensely helped other countries. Among these countries noted was Singapore, which Harmon highlighted had gained independence just a year before Guyana gained its own independence.
“Singapore invested in its human capital; it invested in a very strong public service and a very strong public service college exists right now in Singapore and it has been churning out public service graduates, not only for Singapore but for the rest of the world,” Harmon pointed out.
In regards to such a college being available in Guyana, Harmon indicated that the college will be coming along very shortly. He shared that recommendations have already been received by the Department of Public Service as well as local unions.
These recommendations, he said, touched on the composition of the college’s board, the quality of lecturers, and the college’s proposed curriculum.
He said too that he has already responded to these recommendations and is more than willing to engage with unions to have representatives on the board.
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