Kaieteur News – Did you know that the annual Budget of Guyana is more than G$350 billion. And did you know that the National Assembly approves almost G$1 billion for the Office of the Auditor General to audit the spending of this G$350 billion.
This means that it costs us taxpayers $1 for every $350 spent. This is ridiculous. If the ratio was $1 to every $10,000 that would have been far more acceptable, but to spend $1 to audit spending of $350 shows how inefficient we have become with public expenditure.
But the greatest waste is taking place in respect to some of our other constitutional agencies, which are gobbling up billions of dollars each year. In 2020, more than 11 billion dollars were approved for the constitutional agencies.
Some of these agencies are necessary but the majority can be dispensed with. This latter category represents a huge burden on taxpayers and the public does not derive the value for money from these commissions.
Last year, almost 1 billion dollars was approved for the following constitutional commissions: Public and Police Service Commission, Teaching Service Commission, Office of the Ombudsman, Public Service Appellate Tribunal, Ethnic Relations Commission, Judicial Service Commission, Indigenous Commission, Human Rights Commission, Rights of the Child Commission, Public Procurement Commission and the Gender and Equality Commission.
A great deal can be done with one billion dollars. There is no reason why the government should be spending this inordinate sum of money on commissions, which really have had little impact in society.
The Service Commissions, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Public Service Appellate Commission, were institutions which were inherited from our colonial masters. But these bodies have not worked in the manner in which they were contemplated; they should be dissolved forthwith and the savings put to better use.
The Public, Police and Teaching Service Commissions were intended to insulate public servants, the police and teachers from political influence. But the Commissions themselves are products of political influence. Each successive government attempts to ensure, not that these Commissions reflect a balance in favour of government. So how does one expect these Commissions to be perceived as being truly independent?
In the case of the Judicial Service Commission, the APNU+AFC did not appoint a new commission once the life of the previous Commission had expired. As such, important appointments to the Court of Appeal cannot benefit from the input of the Judicial Service Commission.
The idea behind the Public, Police and Teaching Service Commissions, is that these bodies are supposed to make appointments and to promote and discipline workers in the public, police and teaching professions. But when it comes to appointments, the Commissions have delegated much of their powers to the government. It is for these reasons that the public service continues to be stacked with political loyalists.
Many of these constitutional commissions have outlived their usefulness. They are an implant from our colonial masters and have not worked in post-colonial societies.
Last year an independent Senator in Trinidad and Tobago called for an updating of these constitutional commissions. He noted that the alleged deficiencies in these bodies have negatively impacted the Public Service, such as long delays in the systems of appointment, promotion and disciplinary control of public officials.
And he urged that action be taken by government to restructure the systems and operations of Service Commissions to better regulate the functions of the Public Service and improve service delivery to citizens.
When the matter was debated, the Senator characterised the Service Commissions as follows:
“I would describe the Service Commissions as a boat designed with noble and ambitious intentions. However, having sailed for 58 years since Independence in the last century the vessel is now aged and may be faulty and leaking. While the hands on deck may be labouring hard to keep the vessel afloat and on course, the country has an interest in determining whether it is still fit for purpose, whether it is in need of upgrade and repair, or whether it has outlived its usefulness and should be replaced with a craft which is sleeker, more fuel efficient, and better suited to the needs and circumstances of the time.”
He may have been too generous. It may have been better if he had simply called for them to be scrapped in their entirety.
It is time for a similar debate in Guyana based on the premise that our Service Commissions are out dated, archaic and that taxpayers are not receiving value for money.
(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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