The work of the ten civilians, appointed to help reform the Guyana Police Force (GPF) under the Strategic Management Department (SDM), has encountered a roadblock because of the non-cooperation of senior officers and at least one member has tendered their resignation, according to APNU parliamentarian Winston Felix.
Describing the current situation as a “state of confusion,” Felix said it appears as if the government “foisted” the team on the force without explaining to the upper echelons that they were mandated to cooperate with the team of civilians in an effort to improve the work of the police.
“This is the group that the government put in place… and they are not getting the cooperation of the force,” Felix said, adding that the government should have made it clear that the team is there to help them and that they should work with them.
The Patrick Mentore-led team, which includes Rosanne Purnwasie, Mona Bynoe, Kenneth Bentinck, Hermanetta Andrews, Richard Francois, Trovanna Azez, Enid Thom-Alleyne, Ian James and Shameza David, is expected to work alongside members of the force in addressing the key strategic priorities laid out in the plan.
The SMD is expected to help optimise the collective performance of the force guiding it towards significant organizational renewal and change.
However, according to Felix the team’s work is not proceeding expeditiously and he revealed to the Sunday Stabroek that a female member of the team had tendered her resignation. The former Commissioner of Police declined to reveal the name of the member as he noted that efforts were being made to have her change her mind, since it is less than four months since she was appointed.
Sources told this newspaper that the member was summoned to a meeting with Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Angela Johnson, although the substance of discussion is not known.
According to Felix information reaching him is that a very senior officer in the force snubbed the team when he was asked for some information. The officer was asked for his operational plan for his area but instead of providing it he responded in a rude manner, stating that he does “not think he should report” to the team.
“He did not respond in kind terms to the letter,” the former commissioner said.
He said that some officers have been “putting up roadblocks” and the team’s work cannot move ahead although he noted that it is the government that has to take the blame for just leaving the group with the force creating a situation which will generate conflict.
“With the senior officers not providing information, their work has been stalled up because they need to interact with the force,” the parliamentarian reiterated.
He questioned where the mechanism to make the arrangement work was, noting that the officers are working against the very people who are there to help the force, and they need to understand that the organization is not perfect.
It was suggested that the government convene a meeting with senior officers and the team and have them interface with each other or the team would be unable to produce.
Felix, who had over 30 years in the force, said the intention of the project is good but it lacked a proper structure to produce positive results.
According to him appointing the team has been the best attempt by Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee so far, but it must come with a “buy in” from the force or “else there will be conflicts, and that is what is happening.”
Felix said that what would have made the SDM better was if it had been accompanied by the rejected British-funded Security Sector Reform Plan (SSRP) which was scrapped by the government.
Had this been done Felix said it would have been made clear that the force needed an intelligence unit coupled with “management thinking” which was the intention of the SSRP. He said instead the government went ahead with the Citizens’ Security Programme, which among other things includes the repair of buildings and buying of computers, all of which was good, but did not cover training for the force’s members and raising the educational requirements to enter the force.
In 2009 the government had scrapped a UK £3M security reform project. The UK has said that the final Guyana government proposal for the project suggested a focus on police modernisation, rather than on holistic security sector reform, which led to the decision to withdraw its offer of assistance.
On December 31, 2012, under enormous public pressure over his performance and long overdue changes, Rohee announced sweeping reforms which would see a role for UK consultants who had long recommended such a shake-up.
Rohee said then that changes to the police force would be ushered in with the implementation of the 2013-2017 police Strategic Plan, for which 10 “high-level civilian professionals in non-line positions” will be hired within the force to ensure “a high degree of professional, technical and efficient inputs to guarantee implementation of the plan.”
The plan, he noted, was drawn up by the UK-based Capita Symonds Consultancy in 2010, while the Implementation Plan was drawn up and embarked on by the US-based Julian Laite Consultancy in February, 2012. He said implementation of the strategic plan is pegged at an annual cost of $35 million.
Side by side with the implementation of the strategic plan, he added, the UK based Capita-Symonds Consultancy will be contracted to focus on the critical areas of “Administration,” “Succession planning,” “Integrity/ Probity” and “Public Relations/Communications” in the GPF.
On this point, Rohee said that the implementation of these areas may see the involvement of international police officers as consultants, though he added that the contractual agreement will primarily see the hiring of highly-qualified specialists.
The first phase of the consultancy was to last for a period of four to six weeks, beginning in January and was pegged at a cost of US$129,750.00 or $25 million.
Critics have said that the reforms announced by Rohee did not go deep enough and failed to address weaknesses such as ingrained corruption.