Former chief probation officer Cecil Murray yesterday bemoaned the state of the public service, saying he is deeply saddened by what it has degenerated to today.
“It leaves much to be desired,” he said.
The well-spoken 90-year-old who served in the civil service for more than 30 years beginning in the 1940s, said that many aspects of the services offered now are very pathetic, as he sought to compare the two periods.
He was at the time testifying at the public hearings of the Public Service Commission of Inquiry (CoI) at the Department of the Public Service, Waterloo Street, Georgetown.
He told Commissioners Professor Harold Lutchman (Chairman), Sandra Jones and Samuel Goolsarran that one of the major reasons for the falling standards in the public service is the lack of training.
He said that in most cases, the absence of proper training of workers and the selection of persons who are not qualified to fill posts are among the reasons for the breakdown facing the sector.
He said too that value is no longer attached to proper record keeping, taking of minutes at meetings and the preservation of important documents.
Murray recalled that he recently visited the Probation and Welfare Services office where he requested to see a particular book, but no one could find the material.
He said that record keeping and the preservation of information is of vital importance.
He recalled that during the years he worked as a probation officer, the department was equipped with “the best library” on social work and public administration.
Acknowledging that today’s world is powered by information technology, the retiree said it was unacceptable that it was not being utilized to preserve certain data either.
“I’m saddened,” he said, adding, “sometimes I sit and wonder why I even bother to worry.”
He surmised that after all the time and effort he had invested over the years, “it has all come to naught.”
The elderly man said that lack of knowledge on the part of some departmental heads and permanent secretaries (PS) at certain government ministries, also contributes to the failure of the public sector.
Murray said he was once in conversation with a certain PS who knew nothing about the public service rules and regulations. Murray said that the particular PS was unable to articulate a point in discussion on the rules.
Questioning how this can be possible, he said; “Those rules are like the Bible for public servants.”
He spoke too of the poor customer service rendered by some public servants at certain offices. He said their attitudes are distasteful. “It’s scraping the barrel,” he declared.
“It’s pathetic, it grieves me—but regrettably, no one cares these days.”
In the same vein however, the former public servant made the point that part of that problem is because people are not properly paid.
Touching on the topic of pensions, the retiree said the amount pensioners receive is shameful. He said that people are not asking for extravagance; but rather a decent pension on which they can survive.
“I am ashamed of my pension today,” Murray said. He said that after making invaluable contributions to the public service for in excess of 30 years, he receives only $28,000 a month as pension.
Murray said that in other jurisdictions such as England, the retired workforce is treated with greater respect which is reflected in the pensions they are afforded.
Touching on probation services, the former chief probation officer said that in Guyana judges and magistrates should have better sentencing guidelines, as there are many disparities in how sentences are handed down.
He said too that as obtains in London, England it should be made mandatory for local judges and magistrates to visit prisons in a bid to be acquainted with the reality of what they are dealing with before they impose sentences. “Long sentences do not solve the problem,” Murray said.
He said too that greater use needs to be made of the probation services before sentencing; adding that it is important that the environment a person would have left, is not the same they have to return to, after serving the sentence. “This would be counter-productive,” the man asserted.
The hearings will continue at a date to be announced by the commission’s secretariat. The chairman said that he was not calling a formal end to the public hearings, as other persons may still want to testify and they can be accommodated.
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.