A public servant enjoys security of tenure. What this means in theory – and it is only in theory because there are many ways to circumvent this guarantee – is that a public servant cannot be removed from his or her position at the whim and fancy of his superiors and/or on political grounds.
Public servants enjoy security of tenure, except where they are employed on contract and thus can be terminated in accordance with the terms of that contract. Generally contract workers are not public servants but it is possible for a contract worker to be appointed to a public office. The services of a public servant can also be terminated during their probationary period or if their employment was less than one year one month. Or where the office is abolished or no longer deemed necessary.
Public servants, apart from the above situations, are entitled to permanent employment. This right, however, is not absolute since a public servant can be dismissed or terminated for negligence, indiscipline, malpractice or incompetence (unsatisfactory performance). Generally, a public servant can only be appointed, dismissed or disciplined by the Public Service Commission and not by any Ministry or political official.
The Public Service Commission was established to prevent political meddling in the appointment, dismissal or disciplining of public servants – but that is only in theory too. The reality is that the Public Service Commission has historically delegated its power to employ persons to the various line Ministries and agencies to the extent that it merely ‘rubber stamps’ the employment of those who are selected by government Ministries.
The Public Service Commission is not totally insulated from political control and influence. In practice it is not. The members of the Public Service Commission are appointed by the government and, regardless of the process involved, the political directorate invariably selects persons with whom it is politically comfortable.
When a public servant is accused of a criminal act, the Head of the Department or Permanent Secretary is required to advise the Public Service Commission and to recommend whether that person should remain on the job. The practice has usually been to interdict the public servant pending the outcome of any criminal investigation or charge. Usually, the public servant is placed on half-pay. This may have changed in recent times but it would be quite unusual for the Commission to send anyone on administrative leave, with full benefits, during the course of an investigation unless that person is simply being removed for the purpose of not prejudicing the investigation.
Administrators, however, have found ways of having their way and circumventing the Commission. One such method employed is to send the accused officer on administrative leave. This is usually done to keep the unfavoured off the job where there is no legitimate cause to dismiss or terminate that person’s employment. The downside is that full pay and benefits are enjoyed by the worker.
If the public servant that is charged or being investigated is exonerated, then the interdicted person is entitled to his outstanding pay and benefits. But that individual, notwithstanding, may still be removed to protect the reputation of the public service.
It is therefore not difficult to comprehend why a public servant, whether on contract or otherwise, can be on administrative leave for one year four months. This is reported to be the case in relation to the Director of Youth in the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport.
But there is another issue which needs to be addressed in relation to this matter. Why should a small country like Guyana have a Director of Youth, a Director of Sport and a Director of Culture? Large countries with more resources do not have the heavy-layered bureaucracy. Why not abolish all three posts and simply have one person as the Director of Culture, Youth and Sport?
The more money which has to be spent on financing the administrative costs of the Ministry, the less there will be to spend on culture, youth and sport. What is needed is a slimmer, flatter organization which would be better for the management of the portfolios.
In the distant past, Youth, Sports and Culture were never assigned their own Ministry. Those portfolios used to be part of the Ministry of Education and were usually assigned a small department. And that fact did not seem to affect the organization of cultural, sporting and youth events. If anything, sport culture and youth organizations thrived under such a system because persons were not dependent on government help.
The separation of Culture, Youth and Sport from the Ministry of Education created an additional Ministry and the need for an additional Minister. This is an extremely costly and unnecessary arrangement.
The funds to manage a Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport could have been deployed to other uses. What can also release substantial funds, is the flattening of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport by abolishing all the three directorships and creating a single Director of Culture, Youth and Sport. Why have three posts when you can have one person manning all three portfolios.
(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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