The sore issue of contract employees in the public sector, following the change of governments in 2015, continues to attract interest. Indeed, responding to comments in Focus 2016, Minister of State and spokesperson for the APNU+AFC Government, raised questions about the projected increases in the number of contract employees reflected in our 2016 Budget Focus.

Positively however, we welcomed Minister Harmon’s assurance that “there has been a clear direction by the President that it is our intention to return the Public service to a professional one and so contract hires will be reduced to a minimum”. That assurance was consistent with the sentiment of Focus that, “We sincerely believe that President Granger has the authority to end this abuse. We look to him to act on the matter.”

There have been some developments on this score. The issue featured prominently in the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Public Service of Guyana. The Report which was tabled in the National Assembly very recently pulling no punches in stating that:

“Apart from the increase in cost to retain the contract employees, there is the issue of the arbitrary use of public resources by the political directorate to win political support, and indulge in other practices which are generally described as illegal and/or corrupt because they involve breaches of the law in the process of accessing public funds for such purposes. We are aware that this is an issue  currently under discussion in Guyana. One of the emerging concerns is that those in control of public resources and assets are allowed too much leverage in their management, resulting in serious losses to the public, and clear indications that there is a dire need for tighter scrutiny and control in such matters.”

Before going on to make its recommendations, the Commissioners state at paragraph 116, page 30, of their report:

“During our enquiry there were expressions of concern that, in too many matters applicable laws, rules and regulations were treated with disdain and contempt and were susceptible to being ignored and bypassed by those who possess political power which is at times treated as supreme. Hence, the frequently articulated desire for a return to the rule of law.”

The recommendations are set out on page 31 of the Report are as follows:

  1. That contract workers on all grades holding Public Service positions be absorbed into the pensionable Public Service establishment provided that they are suitably qualified to fill established positions.
  2. That contracted employees/workers should be restricted to high level professional skills not available in the Public Service, and should be recruited and selected through open competition to obtain the best available candidates in the job market.
  3. That no Public Servant who retires before attaining the age of 65 years should be employed an contract in view of the proposed age of retirement on attaining 65 years of age.
  4. That the optimum complement of suitably qualified staff for each ministry, office, division, department, and unit, etc. with the right organizational structure, needs to be evaluated and. determined by human resource and organisational audits.

What the Report does not appear to have addressed is how to deal with those contracted employees who were taken on by this Government purely to reward them for their support in the elections rather than for their qualification and suitability or those former friends and colleagues, mainly from the Army, who were invited back to Guyana. The Report appears to be silent too on any age considerations. We do not encourage youths if we fill limited available posts with persons well into their sixties and seventies.

The 2016/2017 Story

In reviewing the 2016 budget, we expressed our disappointment on the question of Contract Employees due to a continued increase in number and cost. We gave an example of Agency 05 – Ministry of the Presidency which reported a planned increase in contract employees from 298 in 2015 to 505 in 2016. Fast forward to Budget 2017, the number climbs to 569!