Kaieteur News – I met a young public servant a few days ago. We began to chat and I asked him how long he started working in the service. He said that he was there for the past four years. I then asked him how many promotions he has had since then. He looked at me in a funny way as if I was asking something he did not understand.
So I repeated the question, “How many promotions did you get in those 4 years?” He said none. He was in the same position as when he started. I told him to leave the job. He gave me another befuddling look.
A good rule of thumb is that persons entering employment at the entry-level should ideally be promoted every two years. Obviously, the higher one rises in the organisation, the longer it will take to obtain a promotion. But for someone to be stuck at the lower tiers for more than four years suggest that either the job of the position is a dead-end one. An exit strategy is advised.
In the old civil service days of the Empire, it was traditional that promotions would be announced regularly. While civil service jobs were in great demand, there was fair pace of upward mobility even though the top positions were usually reserved for select persons. It was not easy of course to gain entry into the civil service but from 1951 onwards that began to change and a person entering at the entry-level could hope through hard work to eventually aspire to be promoted to the upper ranks of the service.
In the old colonial civil service claims of discrimination were not unheard of. As the Commission of Inquiry into the Public Service noted in its report, middle-level civil servants are often favoured for appointments mainly on the basis of subjective criteria.
It was also quite fashionable at one time, after Independence, for promotions in government corporations and departments and in the police and military to be announced at the commencement of the New Year. Persons looked forward to learning of these promotions and it did motivate workers and encourage others to pursue a profession within the public service.
Burnham understood that when money was short and salary increases had to be curtailed that promotions could help boost staff morale. He used to announce reassignments and promotions within his government. In some cases, he went about creating a heavy political directorate of Vice President and Deputy Prime Ministers and this created quite a stir in society as if there was a complete makeover of the government when it fact it was merely a shuffling of portfolios and personnel.
The PPP/C has downgraded the tradition of promotions. Persons in the public service and public corporations now are no longer confident that if they work hard enough, they can reach the top positions. There is always a political appointee waiting in the wings to assume the top post. In fact, it is hard to remember, apart from the Guyana Defence Force and the Guyana Police Force, there being any announcement of promotions in the public service or in public corporations.
And since 1999 the reshuffling of portfolios has been far and in between and any changes in ministerial assignments came after elections. For example, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs was assigned the Minister of Home Affairs portfolio and a Minister of Amerindian Affairs became the Minister of Home Affairs.
There is need for a reshuffle of portfolios within the government. Some Ministers have not performed and others are under-performing. On the other hand, a few Ministers have been super stellar in their work and deserve an upward grade. The disrespect which is shown to the Prime Minister needs to be resolved. He should be referred to as a Vice President since under the Constitution he is the most senior Vice President of the country and should be rightly referred to as such.
But even more necessary is for the old tradition of promotions within the public service and in public corporations to be re-instituted. Promotions must be treated as an incentive or reward for hard and honest work. If enough vacancies are not there to facilitate promotions, it means that there are problems with mobility within the public service and public organisations. And the main cause of these bottlenecks is usually the practice of political appointments with the appointees staying long past their due date.
(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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