10 January, 2007

Anguilla Public Service No 5

Acting Deputy Governor.

The post of acting Deputy Governor recently became temporarily vacant. I may not have the language correct. You know what I mean. Stanley Reid, the Deputy Governor, was acting Governor for a time while the substantive Governor, Andrew George, was overseas at a meeting. Someone had to be appointed to fill temporarily the position of Deputy Governor. Usually, a senior Permanent Secretary is appointed in such an eventuality. Dr Aidan Harrigan was appointed. He is the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Development. You can read about it here in the Anguillian Newspaper. There was also another story carried here.

There was nothing wrong in the appointment of Dr Harrigan. He is well suited and competent to the appointment. My interest is in a different angle. I have posted a number of stories about a rising sense of malaise in the Anguilla public service. On a tour around The Valley a couple of weeks ago, I was stopped and told by a number of different persons how the post of Deputy Governor was nearly not filled. Now I am hearing the same story in the shops and on the street. They are all a variation of the following theme. In short, the account goes that when Governor Andrew George left for London, the Hon Deputy Governor, Stanley Reid was sworn in as acting Governor. The question arose, who should be acting Deputy Governor? Members of the service assured me with ringing tones of sincerity that, when questioned, the acting Governor sent around a letter to all the Permanent Secretaries telling them that he would not be appointing anyone, as none of them was qualified. They are scandalised and offended. The suggestion being put to us is that the Deputy Governor has begun to let the power go to his head. He is offering gratuitous insults to his Permanent Secretaries. If that were true, it would be an outrage.

The story cannot, of course, be true. It has to be a complete fabrication. The Deputy Governor is most unlikely to have anything to do with the decision who to appoint as acting Deputy Governor. The Governor, Mr George, must have made all the necessary arrangements before he departed from Anguilla. But, it is a reflection on the declining state of morale in the public service when several senior officers can relate the same story to me as Gospel truth! It looks as if Stanley has a lot to do to keep and to build on the good will that his own appointment created just a few short months ago.

Over the course of the previous four posts we have looked at the cause of this malaise in the public service of Anguilla. In my opinion it lies in the continued existence of an unfettered discretion in the Governor’s Office in the appointment of Permanent Secretaries. So long as this state of affairs continues, there will be questions raised about the way in which the discretion is exercised. One solution was proposed by the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission. Paragraph 150 of its Report reads, “There were representations to the Commission that the [Public Service Commission] ought to play an increased role in the appointment of senior members of the public service, and that it should not be left to the unfettered discretion of the head of the public service. The only discussion was whether the Deputy Governor ought to be obliged to act on the advice of the PSC or only after consultation. The Commission recommends that the Deputy Governor should appoint Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Departments after consultation with the PSC and the Premier.”

Personally, I would go further. I would urge that the appointments ought to be made according to the advice of the PSC, ie, the PSC should have the final say. It is no longer appropriate to leave the appointment of our government departments' CEOs to the arbitrary decision of one person. Modern administrative practice demands that such an important decision be professionalised and institutionalised in a properly selected and trained Public Service Commission. The British have long ago given up the concept of the divine right of kings as a system of government. There is no point in us trying to retain it. Stanley may be an honourable man. We cannot continue to have backward and anachronistic constitutional arrangements based on the hope that we will continue to have that position filled by honourable men.

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