Public service administration was broken – PS Brotherson tells inquiry

Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Public Service Department Reginald Brotherson says that while he inherited a broken ministry, he intends to create a sector committed to higher standards.

Brotherson was at the time testifying at the public hearings being hosted as part of the Public Service Commission of Inquiry (CoI) at the Department of Public Service Building, Waterloo Street, Georgetown.

Brotherson yesterday told Commissioners Professor Harold Lutchman (Chairman), Sandra Jones and Samuel Goolsarran that when he assumed office some five months ago, he was greeted with a “demotivated and beaten” staff, which was under tremendous stress.

He said that though this ministry is supposed to be the one that efficiently manages the affairs of the public, “sadly, that was the atmosphere which prevailed at the time.” “The staff was starved of resources,” the PS added.

He recalled that there was a time when staff of the ministry had to enter their names into a book before they could use the telephone to make calls and that they were not allowed to make calls to cellular phones.

According to Brotherson, he has had to try working to reverse such systems. He noted too that there previously existed some level of chaos at the ministry, which was influenced by direct political control, as ministers sometimes micromanage.

In the same vein, the PS underscored the importance of the work of the ministry being free from political interference. He said that he and the current subject minister maintain their respective roles.

Brotherson said he understands his role is to be professional and deal with the policy implementation, while his minister always reminds him to leave being the politician to him.

He emphasised that officers and managers need to be able to do their work without political interference, which he added is the present state at the ministry.

According to the PS, he and his Minister share a productive working-relationship, where even though they work together for the common good of the sector, there is always a clear line of distinction between their duties. Through cooperating with each other, the PS said, they are able to minimise conflicts.

Responding to questions from the Chairman, Brotherson said that one problem which he found that existed at the ministry was that of too many reform initiatives being crafted but not being seen through to finality and therefore not being implemented.

He said that this is among the varied issues he intends to address to improve the standard of the public service sector.

The PS said that there are a number of other indiscretions which he met since he assumed office but he noted that he would prefer to disclose those at an in-camera hearing.

Quizzed as to the relevance of the 1987 public service rules to the needs of the modern world, both Brotherson and the Principal Personnel Officer of the ministry Andrew Grant, who was also present at the hearing, agreed that there is need for reform in this regard.

Grant said that while some of the rules remain relevant today, there is a need for some of them to be upgraded to reflect current societal needs, given the factors of change and advances in technology.

Questioned about the skills-training needs of the organisation, Brotherson told the commission that such systems are in place and from time-to-time they facilitate both local and overseas training of some staff members.

While cautioning the PS about the need for such training to be relevant to the specific job and utilized, Commissioner Jones charged Brotherson to embark on a “manpower inventory,” which would also aid the development of the Public Service Ministry.

She said that “salary administration” must also be examined. On this issue, Commissioner Goolsarran underscored the importance for collective bargaining and negotiations to be in place.

According to Brotherson, the ministry’s 2016 budget will address all these issues, inclusive of the creation of the public service staff college, among other things.

Goolsarran further underscored the need for the public service sector to ensure that the environment in which workers operate remains conducive to productivity at all times. The commissioner noted that often times there are complaints of poor sanitation, ventilation and the general physical working area in which some persons have to execute their duties.

The hearing continues on Friday at 10am.

The CoI was set up by President David Granger to inquire into, report on, and make recommendations on the role, functions, recruitment process, remuneration and conditions of service for public servants.

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