The government is stacking the public service with its cronies. Some public officials are capitalising on this process in order to find jobs for their friends and families.
Many of the new employees will eventually become bona fide public servants. Their employment will have to be endorsed by the Public Service Commission (PSC).
What this means is that a large number of the new employees would be persons who would have benefitted from favourable consideration in their employment.
In some cases, persons who already had jobs are being given jobs in the public service, much to the chagrin of those who badly need jobs and are not procuring employment – even supporters of the ruling coalition who are not being successful in gaining employment within the government.
People are saying that Guyana is returning to the days when it was not your qualifications and abilities which allowed you to gain employment, but who you know and who knows you.
The Public Service Commission recently announced that it was expanding the hiring powers of Permanent Secretaries. The PSC announced that it was delegating, to permanent secretaries, the power to hire persons who fall between the G1 to G3 salary scales. These are the three lower scales in the public service.
This delegation of powers may be seen as a minor issue. But it is not. The public service is bottom-heavy, meaning that the majority of workers are employed in the lower tiers of the establishment. And it is these low-level workers who eventually will become public servants. Workers in the upper-tiers tend to prefer contract employment.
What the recent decision of the PSC means is that the permanent secretaries would now be responsible for hiring a great many of the persons who will be expected to serve as civil servants.
The Public Service Commission is a constitutional body, which was established to make appointments and to exercise discipline and dismissals of public servants. The PSC was created to prevent political and other forms of favouritism in appointments, dismissals and disciplinary action.
The International Commission of Jurists, which in 1965 had investigated racial imbalances in the public and police services, had stressed the importance of employment being done in an objective manner, based on uniform standards of character, educational background and professional competence.
The Commission found, controversially, that the procedures followed by the Commission in the matter of appointments, promotion and dismissals are fair, and that recruitment and promotion are on the basis of merit and merit alone.
And this is how it should be. And this is why the independence of the Public Service Commission was entrenched as part of the constitution of the newly-independent state of Guyana in 1966. Sadly, over the years, the Public Service Commission has been its own enemy, by virtue of it delegating powers of employment to permanent secretaries.
The Public Service Commission has to be careful that it does not become a rubber stamp. Already the government has established something called a Public Service Training College. Persons desirous of entering the Public Service have to apply to this college. After their training, they are assigned to government Ministries.
The Public Service Commission has no control over who enters this college, but will be expected to sign-off on these persons’ employment after they would have been assigned to Ministries upon completion of their training. This amounts to the government having a free hand in the recruitment of these persons who will eventually become public servants.
The Public Service Commission should be the agency, which advertises all vacancies with the public service. It should be the agency to which persons have to apply for jobs in the public service. The Public Service Commission should undertake all the interviews, so as to ensure that the employment process is based on merit, and not friendship or political affiliation.
It is a lot of work for the Commission to undertake such a task, but which is necessary to ensure that employment in the public service is based on merit. Instead of expanding the powers it delegates to permanent secretaries, many of whom are political appointees, the PSC should have been recalling all delegated powers.
There are young people who are not obtaining jobs in the public service even though they are qualified. And fingers are being pointed, since there are others who it is believed are being employed because they have the right connections.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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