12 August, 2007

Public Service Commission

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 Overseas Territory, the Governor is traditionally in charge of the civil service. He appoints the members of the PSC, frequently without consulting the Chief Minister. Ministers have no say in the hiring or firing of civil servants. All Commonwealth Caribbean West Indians, whether independent or not, recognise the importance of ensuring that our civil servants remain non-political. They are supposed to serve whichever party is in power without fear or favour. If they are politically manipulated, it becomes impossible for that standard to be maintained. In Anguilla, the PSC is provided for in section 65 of the Constitution.

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 CafĂ© 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.


  1. Some appointments and nominations of past Governors, particularly with regard to the Queen's Honours and Awards, have been so inappropriate that I've though to myself, "If he'd asked any knowledgeable person about this person, he surely wouldn't have made such a mistake." So I believe it would be sensible for all appointments and nominations to be made either by the Deputy Governor, or by the Governor upon the advice of his Deputy.

  2. Politics is not about saving the country, that is for Messiahs. It is not a profession, professionals are persons whose code of ethics oblige them to place the interest of their clients above theirs. It is more of a job. If done well, the rewards are great. Doing the job well has only one test. You must win. That is not a formula for high ethical standards. God help us if we persuade the British to give us full internal self government under any of the present lot of politicians without the necessary checks on abuse of power. It will be more of the same. Votes for sale and politicians competing to buy them. We have not yet established any high standards for our politicians. We will get the leaders we deserve. We will not be for sale. We will pay, and pay, and pay.

  3. I tried posting this earlier. Delete if there is a duplicate copy.

    August 13, 2007-- The Foreign Affairs Committee has announced a new inquiry with the following terms of reference:

    The Committee will inquire into the exercise by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of its responsibilities in relation to the Overseas Territories and the FCO’s achievements against its Strategic Priority No. 10, the security and good governance of the Overseas Territories. In particular, this Inquiry will focus on:

    •Standards of governance in the Overseas Territories

    •The role of Governors and other office-holders appointed by or on the recommendation of the United Kingdom Government

    •The work of the Overseas Territories Consultative Council

    •Transparency and accountability in the Overseas Territories

    •Regulation of the financial sector in the Overseas Territories

    •Procedures for amendment of the constitutions of Overseas Territories

    •The application of international treaties, conventions and other agreements to the Overseas Territories

    •Human rights in the Overseas Territories

    •Relations between the Overseas Territories and the United Kingdom Parliament

    The Foreign Affairs Committee last reported on these matters in January 1998, at the time of the Government’s Dependent Territories Review. The Committee has since produced several Reports on Gibraltar, but this will be the first time it has considered the Government’s overall policy on the Overseas Territories since 1998. The National Audit Office (NAO) is currently carrying out a review of the effectiveness of the FCO’s work in relation to the Territories. The NAO is expected to publish its Report in the Autumn.

    The Overseas Territories are: Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Antarctic Territory (BAT), the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT/Chagos Islands), the British Virgin Islands (BVI), the Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, St Helena and its Dependencies (Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus, and the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI).

    Oral evidence sessions are expected to commence in November 2007. Those intending to submit written evidence are asked to do so by Monday 15 October.

    Source: http://www.parliament.uk


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