Kaieteur News – The absence of public sector reform has been one of the disappointing aspects of the new PPP/C government. The last time there was any major reform in the public service was in the 1990’s under Desmond Hoyte. Since then, there has been some capacity building programmes masquerading as public administration reforms, but no major restructuring of the public service has taken place in more than 30 years.
There is a need for reform. At present, the system is bloated and slothful, thereby resulting in poor services and an onerous financial burden on the National Budget.
The public service needs to be culled. The number of persons needs to be slashed, but this is always a difficult option for governments worried about the effects of any such downsizing in workers.
As such, the cost of administering the public bureaucracy becomes exorbitant. At present, it costs taxpayers more than $500M per day to keep the public bureaucracy going. Yet, there has been little mention of any plans to scale-down the size of the public service. In fact, very few plans at all are being announced for the public service.
Another major problem concerns the retention of retirees on the job. One of the excuses made is that these persons have the skills and there are no replacements. But how will anyone be able to replace the retirees, if they are not being given the opportunity and training needed to replace retirees.
When retirees are hired, it keeps young professionals on the sidelines. It restricts their upwards mobility and frustrates them.
There are quite a few retirees, who have been retained within the public sector. A letter writer in this newspaper last week pointed out the case of someone long past the age of retirement, who has been retained by the Guyana Revenue Authority. There are many similar cases throughout the government service.
It is fact, however, that the age of retirement in the public service in too low. This matter was addressed by the Commission of Inquiry into the Public Service, which was launched by the APNU+AFC. The Report of that Commission of Inquiry noted that the age of retirement in Guyana’s public service is 55 years, while in some government agencies, such as the Guyana Revenue Authority and Audit Office of Guyana it is 60. Judges in Guyana retire at 65.
The Commissioners argued against the age of retirement being 55 years. This is what they said:
“It is argued that the age of 55 is too early an age for retirement for Public Servants. Testimonies to the Commission support and advocate for higher retirement age for Public Service staff. The contention is that at age 55, Public Servants would have acquired deep knowledge and wide experience in public management and in their professional and specialist fields. Therefore, it is a great loss of skills and expertize to the Public Service with a retirement age at 55. This is one of the arguments used to justify the re-employment of retired public servants on contract immediately upon retirement.”
They recommended that the retirement age, for those now entering the service and those who are below the age of 50 years, be adjusted to 65 years with the option of retiring at 60. They also recommended that no person who retired before the age of 65 should be employed on contract in the public service.
The APNU+AFC had established the Commission of Inquiry but did not do anything about these recommendations. Public sector reform was placed on the backburner.
The PPP/C has come in and there has been no policy announcement in respect to the age of retirement in public entities, including the public service. In fact, the PPP/C has employed persons who are past the age of 70 years.
The PPP/C too has ignored the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the public service. We have heard about legislative reforms, constitutional reforms and justice sector reforms, but not much about public sector reforms.
Last December, it was announced that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) had assigned the pitiful sum of US$1M for public sector reform. This sum was said to be for improving fiscal management including public procurement, public financial management, public investment, and macro-fiscal management. This can hardly be considered as comprehensive public sector reform.
The PPP/C has always been poor at policy-making. And this trend continues in respect to public sector reform. But even if the PPP/C lacks the capacity to engage in comprehensive public sector reforms, it can take some steps towards this goal, beginning with a policy on the age of retirement and the hiring of persons on contract and who are above the age of retirement.
At the minimum, the government should indicate its plans, if any, for adjusting the age of retirement and it should place an immediate moratorium on the employment of persons above the age of 65 years.
If after a person reaches the age of 65 and that person is found to be indispensable, then it means that something is radically wrong with succession planning and training within the public sector.
(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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