If one person is better qualified than another and has more experience than the other, should that person not have a better chance of getting a job than the other person? Should having the right political connections allow one candidate to be favoured over another?
The service commissions were intended to ensure that every eligible person has a fair chance of being appointed to a public service position and to ensure their security of tenure. In other words, they were intended to act as a layer between government and its workers so as to prevent the politicization of appointments and dismissals within the state sector.
The main service commissions are the Police Service Commission, the Public Service Commission and the Teaching Service Commission. The Constitution provides that all three of these service commissions should be free of political direction.
There, however, remains uncertainty as to the effectiveness of constitutional commissions and whether in fact they are insulated from political direction. In many countries, service commissions have failed to prevent the politicization of appointments.
Part of the problem is because of the inadequacies of resources, service commissions have delegated some of their responsibilities to government agencies. In many instances, interviews are done by government ministries and departments and sent to the commissions for rubber stamping. This has eroded the protective insulation, which the commissions were intended to provide.
Another source of confusion has been the fact that under colonial Guyana, the police service commission and the public service commission merely recommended appointments to the Governor. This has left the impression that it is the government, which has the ultimate say in appointments. Recommendations were made to the Governor since appointments were made under his hand, and not by him.
The role of service commissions is to restrain the executive from politicizing appointments. Service commissions are also intended to act as an independent and impartial tribunal for disciplining and dismissing public servants. In this regard, the delegation of appointments by the commissions to the government ministries and departments, have carried the danger of undermining the professionalism and impartiality of the police, the public service and the judiciary.
The Public Service Commission should reclaim its role in selecting persons for appointment within the traditional public service. The Police Service Commission should do the same in relation to the appointment of recruits into the Force. They should consider recalling all delegated responsibilities because of the dangers of politicization of appointments.
The government has established a new training college for public servants. This college can become a filter for deciding who enters into the Public Service. It can be perverted to become a conduit for political appointments to the public service. Recruitments of cadets are done centrally, and persons will have to enter the public service, first through the college. The Public Service Commission will have to rubber stamp these appointments. But should they do so when they have had no role in selecting those candidates?
Guyana must be careful not to return to the days of the political indoctrination of workers, or to the days when public servants were forced to swear fealty to the ruling party. In the past, workers were forced to attend rallies, party congresses, and participate in marches, which were intended to encourage loyalty and subservience to the ruling elite.
Institutions aimed at militarizing the society are also possible. The Guyana National Service is going to re-emerge under a different name. The embryo of the original Guyana National Service was the National Youth Corps. This corps is being re-established. It does not take a genius to predict what this will evolve into. Already the ideology of persons having to serve the state is re-emerging. The Guyana People’s Militia has been re-established.
Paramountcy is taking subtle forms. Already we see certain workers having to wear uniforms in the colours of APNU.
The government was highly critical of contract employment within the public service under the PPPC. This practice has continued under APNU+AFC. However, the government has commendably begun to transition workers from contract to tenured employment. But this process should not be selective, and an audit should be undertaken to ensure consistency.
The service commissions are not likely to roll back the erosion of their involvement in appointments. They are not likely also to withdraw all delegated functions.
The commissions themselves are proving to be ineffective as a layer between the workers and the state. If they can longer be counted on to avoid political influence in appointments, they should be disbanded, because they are not serving their intended purpose.
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