Constitutional Discussions 20: Public Service Commission. In independent Commonwealth Caribbean countries, the Public Service Commission, or PSC, is intended to be the body that appoints and disciplines public servants, the civil service. The members of the PSC are appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Prime Minister. In an
During its public consultations, the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission received many representations concerning the PSC. There was unanimous agreement, even among the politicians, that the public service must remain out of the political domain. There was also unanimous agreement that the Governor’s arbitrary powers over the service should cease. There is a recognised need to localize the public service. One strategy for ensuring political neutrality is to keep the appointment of members of the PSC out of the hands of the politicians.
At paragraph 143 of its Report, the Commission recommended that the appointment of the majority of the members of the PSC should continue to be made by the Governor without reference to either the Chief Minister or the Leader of the Opposition. The public service unions do nominate a small portion of the members of the PSC. The Commission recommended that this should continue. The members of the House of Assembly meeting in caucus at the Limestone Bay Café supported the Commission’s recommendation that the method of appointment of the PSC remain unchanged.
One strategy for ensuring independence in bodies that have quasi-judicial functions is to grant them a term of office long enough to permit them to act free of fear of imminent dismissal. A short term of office is recognised to be unsettling and adverse to independent thought and action. At paragraph 144 of its Report, the Commission recommended that the PSC should be strengthened by extending the tenure of its members from two to five years. That would free them up from the concern that if they acted independently and made politically unpopular decisions they might be removed from office within a very short time.
At paragraph 145 of its Report, the Commission recommended that there be an increased degree of internal self-government. This would be achieved by entrenching in the Constitution that the power of appointment of the members of the PSC be transferred from the Governor to the Deputy Governor. It will be recalled that it had previously been recommended that the Deputy Governor should always be an Anguillian.
It is a matter for some regret that the members of the House of Assembly disagreed with the last two of the above recommendations. They would prefer that the tenure of members of the PSC should be set at a period of three years. This is too short. It would ensure that the fear of dismissal continues to hang over the heads of the members of the PSC, perhaps making them amenable to political pressure. The members of the Assembly also prefer to have the Governor continue to do the appointing to the PSC, and not the Deputy Governor.
The reason for this retrograde step was never revealed. It is a complete mystery to those of us who would like to see some constitutional advancement in this area.