04 January, 2007

Anguilla Public Service No 1

Evidence of Malaise in the Anguilla Public Service.

The Anguilla Constitution of 1982 is clear. Appointments to the public service are not in political hands. Matters affecting the public service are in the hands of the Governor. This applies not only to appointments, but also to promotions and discipline. This was done not to make the Governor feel important. It was not because we thought the Governor is better qualified to do a better job. It is done for one reason only. Our founding fathers wanted to keep the public service out of politics. Our system should not be corrupted by placing the public service under the control of politicians. They determined that the best way at the time was to give it to the Governor. In Anguilla, the Governor is usually a disinterested British public servant. He has no family or enemies here. He would not have any reason to act improperly or unfairly while serving in Anguilla. As a senior public servant himself, he should know how to behave in the most ethical way in public service matters.

The Governor of Anguilla has for some years past delegated the day to day function of the administration of the public service to the Deputy Governor. The office responsible under the Constitution for the Public Service remains the Governor's office. The Governor could take away the responsibility from the Deputy Governor tomorrow. Whenever I write about the Governor in this context you can read Deputy Governor, and vice versa.

You may ask, what about the Public Service Commission? Under the Constitution, the PSC has only an advisory role. It has no executive function. The Governor is free to consult it. He does not have to listen to what it recommends. He is not even required to consult it in the case of appointments to the level of Permanent Secretary. He is required to consult the Chief Minister. But, he can ignore the advice given to him by the Chief Minister. Our founding fathers obviously thought it would be safe to give the Governor unfettered discretion when it came to appointments, promotions, discipline, and terms of service of the public service. The Constitutional Commission has recommended that this should cease. Read the report here. Look in particular at paragraphs 141-152 dealing with sections 65 and 66 of the Constitution.

Permanent Secretaries under our system are the pinnacle of appointment in the public service. They are more than Department heads. They are like the CEO in a corporation. They are also the right hand men and women of the Ministers. What they know the Minister is deemed to know. The Minister takes political responsibility for what his Department does. He also takes credit for whatever his Department does. Everyone knows that it is really the Permanent Secretary that runs the Department.

Every ambitious public servant aspires to rise to be a Permanent Secretary. It is all the more important that appointments to the level of Permanent Secretary be above question. If doubts begin to arise as to the integrity of the system of appointment to such a position, then confidence in the entire system begins to collapse. I am told that there is a concern in the Anguilla public service that recent appointments to the position have not been made in a transparent manner. If you have a view, please let me know. I shall be considering questions that have been raised about some of the more recent appointments in a series of subsequent postings.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.