Anguillians Want an Independent Public Service Commission to Assist the Governor in Exercising his Powers over the Public Service.
Under our system in Anguilla, the public service is independent and non-political. This applies at all levels, from the permanent secretary down to the newest clerical officer. No Minister of Government has a say in their appointment or dismissal. This is reserved for a non-political body, the Governor. At present, the Anguilla Constitution 1982 provides that the public service come under the Governor. Section 28(2) says that
“(2) The Governor shall not be obliged to consult with nor act upon the advice of the Executive Council with respect to the following—
(a) . . .
(b) the appointment (including the appointment on promotion or transfer, appointment on contract and appointment to act in an office) of any person to any public office, the suspension, termination of employment, dismissal, or retirement of any public officer or taking of disciplinary action in respect of such an officer, the application to any public officer of the terms or conditions of employment of the public service (including salary scales, allowances, leave, passages or pensions) for which financial provision has been made; . . .”
The Governor is responsible for the public service. The Constitution says he must consult with the Public Service Commission. The PSC is made up of local, knowledgeable Anguillians. They know who is who and what is what. Knowledgeable and independent as the Governor may be, he is one person. He can and does delegate his power over the public service to the Deputy Governor. The Deputy Governor is at present an Anguillian. But, he also is only one person. The PSC, by contrast, consists of several persons. Several heads are better, etc. They are expected to be independent, prominent, knowledgeable persons. But, the Deputy Governor does not have to listen to the advice of the PSC. He can completely ignore them, and do as he sees fit. The PSC can only give its advice and hope for the best. At that point its responsibility ceases. It has no real powers. The Deputy Governor is solely responsible for all hiring and firing in the public service.
That is an antiquated, outdated provision. That arrangement is not repeated in modern constitutional arrangements.
Our constitutional fore-fathers chose the Governor in order to make it clear that the public service was to remain non-political. It is a basic constitutional tenet that the Governor is not placed over the public service to show how important he is. He is not put in that position because there is something special about a Governor. He serves the public interest. He is put there in order to guarantee that the political leadership will not interfere in the appointment, terms of service, or discipline of public servants.
During the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission’s work in early 2006, all Anguillians who made submissions on the topic wanted the political independence of the public service to continue. Not a single person, including Ministers and other politicians, wanted the public service to be headed by a Minister. Most want the head of the service to continue to be an Anguillian Deputy Governor. Most were of the view that he should be obliged to act on the advice of an independent PSC.
The new Constitution should provide for the PSC to be the body that ensures the independence of the public service, not the Governor or the Deputy Governor.
Similarly, the teaching service should be under the supervision of an independent, expert body known as the Teaching Service Commission.
This will not be difficult to do. The new Virgin Islands Constitution provides for both Commissions. The BVI Govrnor has to take their advice. That is a precedent we could easily follow. It does not take a drafting expert to change Virgin Islands to Anguilla. Anguillians want it. The British have no objection to it.
We all hope that when the draft of the new Constitution comes out, it will show that the Deputy Governor is obliged to take the advice of the Public Service Commission and of the Teaching Service Commission.