Political appointees, by definition, do not enjoy security of tenure. They are liable to be substituted after a change in government.
Political appointees owe their appointments to either the President, the Prime Minister or to a Minister. They work at the behest of these persons and their jobs are dependent on the re-election of these persons. They have no security of tenure and can have their services terminated without cause at any time.
Civil servants or public servants and other public officials, on the other hand, are career employees. They are supposed to be loyal to whichever government is in power. Their responsibility is to the institution and not to the politicians.
Both career employees and political appointees can be contract workers. The fact that someone had an employment contract does not insulate him or her from being asked to resign or from having his or her services terminated upon a change of government. In fact, it is expected that political appointees – those persons who are directly appointed by the President, Prime Minister or Ministers – should tender their resignations upon a change in government.
For example, Ambassadors and High Commissioners who are not career diplomats are expected to offer their resignation upon a change of government. Diplomats are usually of two types. The first type of diplomat is the career diplomat. They would have been employed within the Foriegn Service prior to becoming a diplomat.
The second type of diplomat is political appointees. These are persons who were not originally part of employment of the Foreign Service but have been hand-picked by the President or Foreign Minister for their posting.
Just to illustrate the difference between a career diplomat and a political appointee, we can consider the following as being political appointees within Guyana’s diplomatic corps: Michael Ten-Pow (now resigned) who was Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations; Riyad Insanally, Guyana’s Ambassador to the United States; Mr. Halim Majeed, Guyana’s Ambassador to Cuba; Dr. David Pollard, Guyana’s High Commissioner to India; and Dr. Kenrick Hunte, Guyana’s High Commissioner to South Africa. These are all examples of political appointees who are expected to offer their resignations upon a change in government.
It will be for the new Minister of Foreign Affairs to determine whether or not to accept these resignations. There was a bizarre case in which a diplomat, who was a political appointee under the PPP/C, did not submit his resignation upon the change in government in 2015.
Within the government service, there are a number of political appointees. These are persons who were not career workers in the public service but, instead, owe their employment to their new political bosses. These persons can be asked to resign because they are political appointees who do not enjoy any security of tenure.
The only workers who enjoy security of tenure in the public service are persons who are employed by the Public Service Commission. Those persons can only be dismissed by the Commission. But they can be asked to and can resign of their own volition.
Within the public bureaucracy, there are a number of persons who work on contract because they prefer the benefits rather than becoming bona fide public servants. These contracts can be terminated by any incoming administration.
Political appointees therefore are liable to have their employment terminated by a new administration. As was announced yesterday, two political appointees resigned upon the new government taking office. This is the correct convention to be followed. They did not wait to be fired; they submitted their resignation.
Interestingly, one of those persons was a candidate for the APNU+AFC for the 2020 elections. The other person actually spoke on a political platform, though he was not a candidate.
Civil service conventions establish that once you are a political candidate or speak on a political platform, you should resign from the public service.
Political appointees are necessary in any government. They are an important means of ensuring that the bureaucracy implements government’s policies. Bureaucrats should not make political choices for governments; this task should be left to the political appointees. Bureaucrcats should be tasked with the implementation of these polices. Without political appointees, bureaucrats would behave like politicians, and that cannot be allowed.
Because political appointees are necessary, every government should have the right to remove political appointees of the outgoing regime. Otherwise, these appointees could frustrate the work of the new government. You cannot put PNC/R political appointees to oversee PPP/C policies and vice versa.
In this context, political appointees ought to know that they do not enjoy security of tenure. It goes with the nature of their appointment. It is the risk that they run when they take-up such appointments.
(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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