A recommendation for a merging of the Public Service Commission and the Teaching Service Commission has been made by the Constitutional Reform Commission as part of proposals for reforming the public service which is covered in Chapter Seven of its report.
Today, THE VOICE presents the second part of Chapter 7:
Some of the submissions for reform of the Public Service that were received by the Commission may be summarised as follows: –
(a) That the concept of a neutral, non-political public service be retained;
(b) The jurisdiction of the Service Commissions should be extended to members of Statutory Corporations and members of Statutory Boards; it is therefore recommended also that a special Commission be introduced for statutory bodies, and a common professional resource service all of the Commissions’ requirements under the aegis of the Public Service Ministry.
(c) That Public Officers below a certain grade or rank should be given a constitutional right to sign public petitions, take part in the management of newspapers, furnish the press with letters or articles which are of a “political or administrative nature”, give broadcast talks and participate in discussions of a political or administrative nature;
(d) That members of the Service Commissions should be appointed by the Head of State (President) in the following manner (a) the Chairman, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister (b) one member, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister after consultation with the relevant employees’ representative e.g. Saint Lucia Civil Service Association; and (c) up to three members on the advice of the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition;
(e) That members of the Service Commissions should enjoy tenure as well as protection of conditions of service;
(f) That there should be a quarantine period during which retiring members of the Commissions may not hold public office;
(g) Removal of members of the Commissions should only be for cause; and
(h) That there should be a Tribunal hearing before dismissal of members of Service Commissions. Such Tribunal should be appointed by the Head of State and chosen from persons who hold or have held or are eligible to hold high judicial office.
(i) The issue of corruption should be addressed by creating internal mechanisms of accountability in respect of lower level public officials but a more inquisitorial mechanism for senior officials such as the politicians, permanent secretaries and heads of departments by which they could be investigated without prejudice or favour and if found guilty suffer the consequences like any other ordinary person.
(j) The institutionalisation of appointments by contract for specific post within the Public Service which should exclude posts of Permanent Secretary and Head of Department.
(k) There is need for a Procedures Manual or and Operations Manual for the Public Service.
If the nature of the concerns which were expressed by both members of the public and by public servants themselves, are examined carefully, it will be noticed that they point to a realisation that the management of the human resource, the most important asset of any organisation, and certainly the most expensive commodity of the Public Service, does not appear to have kept pace with the developments which have occurred since independence. The role of the Service Commissions therefore, is paramount, and their leadership is crucial. The staffing resources with which they are equipped need also to be carefully chosen and thoroughly trained.
The Public Service Commission
The mechanism of the Public Service Commission, as in other Constitutions of this ilk, has been used as a means of protecting the public officer from any form of direct political pressure, to give effect to the concept of meritocracy in advancement, and impartiality in the application of disciplinary action. Increasing demands to ensure the fulfilment of these functions have made the resources allocated to the servicing of these requirements inadequate.
There was a submission that the Leader of the Opposition should have a greater role to play in the determination of the composition of the Public Service Commission. It submitted further, that the
Public Service Commission should therefore comprise:
three (3) persons nominated by the Prime Minister;
two (2) persons nominated by the Leader of the Opposition (who will be renamed “Minority Leader”); and
one (1) person nominated by the President acting in his or her own deliberate judgment; this nominee should be the Chairperson.
The Commission accepted this submission noting that this represented an extension of the proposal at the Marlborough House Conference in 1978. In the Commission’s view, such reform would introduce a greater level of balance in the appointment of members of the Public Service Commission which it regards as a desirable goal.
There was also a submission that the Teaching Service Commission should be subsumed under the Public Service Commission for purposes of greater efficiency. This proposal represents a reversal of one of the reforms adopted at the Marlborough House Conference in 1978. The Commission agreed with this proposal for change on the grounds that separate service commissions was an unnecessary duplication and that, in practical terms, both commissions share the same personnel and resources.
With respect to the Public Service Commission and the Teaching Service Commission, the Commission recommends the following:
(107) The Teaching Service Commission should be merged with the Public Service Commission.
(108) The members of the Public Service Commission after the merger should be appointed by the President as follows:
three (3) persons acting on the advice of the Prime Minister;
two (2) persons acting on the advice of the Minority Leader; and one (1) person acting in his/her own deliberate judgement who shall be the chairperson.
(109) Each member shall have one vote with the exception of the chairperson who shall have a casting vote in the event of a tie.