It is generally accepted that information management has been a problem for Guyana’s political directorates, past and present. Various information agencies have historically been established to try to improve the management of government information but all of these have failed to deliver the sort of public adulation which their establishment sought to create.
The APNU+AFC has been no different. The government’s public relations remains open to criticism with many contending that the government has failed to adequately improve its image with the public or properly explain, in a timely manner, its policies.
The government has been unable to effectively counter the once weekly, one-man press conference which is hosted by the opposition. The government continues to be ineffective in countering its critics. It has been even more ineffective in responding to independent critics.
It is, of course, difficult for even the best spin doctors to defend incompetence, ineptitude, mismanagement and corruption. There is only so much spin which can be put on a ‘ball’. But there is the view out there, that the government has not done enough to defend itself against its critics.
The AFC is supposed to hold the information portfolio within the government. This is the responsibility which has been handed to the Prime Minister.
Yet, the AFC has been undermined in managing the information portfolio. If the responsibility for information is supposed to fall under the Prime Minister, then what right does the Ministry of the Presidency have to establish its own information department?
This department is duplicating the work of the Department of Public Information (DPI). The DPI runs its own features each week. There is one called Info Hub and it publishes a Berbice Bulletin and Hinterland Highlights.
The Ministry of the Presidency produces its own features. This is unnecessary and costly duplication of work. The information arm of the Ministry of the Presidency is believed to employ more than 20 persons. This is totally unnecessary and a waste of taxpayers’ resources. In the old days, it was said, why have two press rooms when one is enough.
In 2017, the government merged the Department of Public Information and the old Government Information News Agency which had been inherited from the PPPC and which were allocated huge amounts of public funds. Yet, the department responsible for information within the Ministry of the Presidency was allowed to remain outside of the newly merged entity.
It is not unusual for Presidential offices to have small media outfits. But these should only be for issuing statements and advisories. When it comes to the production of features and covering the President and the Ministers within the Presidency, this should be forked out to the central government information agency.
This, however, has never happened since May 2015 and the Ministry of the Presidency continues to operate a bloated outfit which runs in parallel with the official information arm of the government. The unit is said to have in excess of 25 staff members. Why so many persons?
To its credit, there have been no serious conflicts or clash of roles between the two entities concerned with government information. But it does undermine the information portfolio of the Prime Minister when the largest Ministry – which now has responsibility for the public service, the environment, energy, social cohesion and defense – does not fall under the official information arm of the government. The fact therefore that there has been no conflict between the two agencies still does not augur well for the way in which information is managed by the government.
The difficulty which arises is that both of these agencies remain under separate heads and this does not lead to effective coordination. The fact also is that one sees itself as superior to the other and this is unhealthy.
There is no need for a full-fledged media outfit to cover the President. Wherever the President goes, the media will follow. But when you have a presidential media outfit, it discourages even the state media from covering the President because all media houses know that whether they turn up or not, the Ministry of the Presidency’s information outfit is going to send out a release. Why therefore cover the President. This amounts of course to taxpayers subsiding even the private media.
Taxpayers should not be funding two government information agencies. It is a waste of money. And especially considering, the government is losing the propaganda battle for the hearts and minds of citizens.
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