“THIS is not a fete in here, this is Madness” (Calypsonian David Rudder, 1987).
In Part I, we reviewed the matters which led to the early retirement of ex-Commissioner Francois and concluded with the need for the Public Service Commission to not only discharge its functions in an independent manner, but to do so transparently. In this, Part II, we look at the process of appointing a new Commissioner of Police.
The Public Service Commission having advertised the post, we first heard from the media that the selection had been stalled by a request for judicial review by one of the applicants. The Commission made no comment on this, but then subsequently re-advertised the post.
In this newspaper’s front page report of February 13 on Ag. Commissioner Alexander’s decision not to re-apply for the post of Commissioner, the article indicated that while no reason for abandonment of the process and the subsequent re-advertisement of the post had been given by the Commission, one applicant for the post was challenging the process in court on the basis that he had met the qualifications and should therefore have been shortlisted for an interview but was not.
The February 13 VOICE article also indicated that, on re-advertising the post, the Commission had changed the requirements for it and now included a proviso that satisfaction of the advertised requirements would not necessarily entitle a candidate to an interview.
In deciding to re-advertise the post, the Public Service Commission should have been mindful that it is a body charged with the appointment of persons to the public service. It cannot have hidden or unpublished requirements for the selection of candidates to any post. If there are specific hurdles to be crossed before a candidate can expect to be interviewed, those hurdles must be detailed in the advertisement for the post. What could have led the Public Service Commission to advertise that it in effect reserved the right not to be transparent in its selection of candidates for interview?
In a second front page article in this paper on February 27, we are informed that while the requirements for the post had been changed, the second attempt to select a Commissioner was likely to meet the same fate as the first as there were suggestions that this process was likely to be challenged in court as well. The Chairman, in an interview reported in this newspaper on March 10, then made matters significantly worse.
First, he indicated that the initial process for selection of a Commissioner had not been abandoned because of a threat of judicial review, but that it had gone through to its completion unable to find a candidate who met all the criteria. The Chairman then went on to indicate that the second selection process had not been entirely similar to the first in that the requirements were different and less stiff in order to attract a wider pool of candidates.
If true, taken together, these have to be two of the most brazen statements ever made by someone holding public office. Just who does the Chairman take the public for?
Firstly, who designed the criteria for the post of Commissioner? If the qualifications as contained in the first advertisement for the post were in fact determined to be the appropriate qualifications, are we being asked to believe that, prior to advertisement of the post, neither the Commission nor whomever else had input in the determination of those qualifications had any knowledge of the qualifications of the senior staff on the force? Did they not know that no officer would in fact meet the stated requirements?
Then, why did the Chairman claim that the Commission had lowered the requirements? Was it because it suddenly realized that it had been too stringent in its previous requirements, or was it because no foreigner possessing those qualifications applied for the position as the Chairman of the Commission is reported as stating in the Voice article of March 10?
In the VOICE article of February 27, the requirements of the post in the initial process were indicated as being a Masters Degree in one of three areas: Management, Business Administration and Law. The second advertisement did not lower the qualifications required but expanded them to include a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice, Policing or Security. The experience required was described differently. Why was this described as a lowering of the requirements? If anything, the new requirements are more selective. Why was this post re-advertised?
For Ag. Commissioner Alexander to have been invited to an interview, it means that he must have satisfied the qualification requirements as published. Rejected following the interview stage, what other requirements did he not satisfy, particularly considering that when the need for an Acting Commissioner arose, Mr. Alexander was considered for the post and was appointed to it? Had the Commission not been satisfied with his performance as Ag. Commissioner, then that dissatisfaction should have been documented and it should have disqualified Mr. Alexander from the interview process. But this is not what happened – why?
The Chairman of the Commission made a further equally disturbing revelation in that VOICE article of March 10, indicating that “The interview is not the only factor when it comes to selecting someone for the post. … You need to do background checks, reference checks, and a few other things”. Is the Chairman seriously asking us to believe that our senior police officers cannot pass background and reference checks? If they cannot, what are they still doing on the force? And just what are these “few other things”?
It got even more confusing, as the Voice article of March 10 also indicated that Asst. Superintendent Brian Samuel had filed a request with the Court for an injunction stopping the first process of selection, and that he had filed a similar request to stop the second process. Both requests are to be heard on April 07 according to the report.
Yet, the Chairman was confident that the Commission would come up with a successor to Ag. Commissioner Alexander before he, Alexander, goes on pre-retirement leave early in April. What could lead the Chairman to think that the Court would rule on the requests for injunction between hearing them on April 07 and the period in early April when Ag. Commissioner Alexander goes on leave?
And how would the Chairman get to go to Court with his explanation on April 7, 2016 when the life of his Commission expires on March 31, 2016?
Well, these questions have now been answered by the news that a Commissioner of Police has been appointed, two working days after this newspaper interviewed the Chairman of the PSC on March 10. Why didn’t the Chairman simply indicate then that the Commission had made its selection and intended to proceed with it regardless of the objections that were before the Court? Is this muddling of the facts the manner in which the media, and by extension, the public can expect to be treated by the Commission?
And as for the statement by the Minister of National Security that Mr. Alexander was leaving because he had reached retirement age, why then did the Commission subject the Ag. Commissioner to an interview if there was no possibility of him being selected due to his age?
The public can only be thankful that this process has ended, (hopefully), and that we have heard the last from this Public Service Commission whose life expires in less than one week. We wish the new Commissioner success, and can only hope that he will get all the support necessary for him to succeed.
This process however was no joke. Not a fete, this was madness.