Government used its majority early yesterday morning to defeat a motion by the opposition for the report of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the public service to be sent to a parliamentary select committee for further study.
The motion, moved by Chief Whip of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Gail Teixeira, was brought out of recognition that the report of the CoI required more attention from the House with respect to the recommendations. She told the National Assembly during a debate on the motion that the 89 recommendations that have been made by the CoI are “very serious in nature” and require the attention of the House in a parliamentary select committee.
Teixeira added that with respect to the ramifications of the recommendations, national consultations are necessary.
“Generally the opposition will not support anything that will hurt the public servants of this country,” she said, while pointing out that the opposition’s focus is whether the recommendations of the CoI will affect the public servants lives negatively or positively. “We also believe that there should be inclusions in the committee through consultations and hearings with the labour movement, public servants and other agencies, such as the NIS [National Insurance Scheme], who should be part of it,” she said.
However, Minister of State Joseph Harmon said Teixeira’s recommendation to send the report to a special select committee cannot stand because the work, including consultations, had been concluded. He further explained that the government has already started executing some of the recommendations from the CoI.
Harmon pointed out that they have started with the establishment of planning departments in government ministries, the introduction of the public service code of conduct and the establishment of a committee of Permanent Secretaries from different ministries, the University of Guyana and the Private Sector Commission to identify scholarship awardees.
Additionally, Harmon pointed out that the Public Service Appellate Tribunal will be appointed early next year. He said the resumes of several persons are being looked at so that the government will be in a position to call on leader of the opposition Bharrat Jagdeo for consultations. He also indicated that a building is currently undergoing major renovations to accommodate the tribunal when the time is right.
Teixeira also pointed out that one of the main concerns of the opposition was that even though the report was tabled in the House, the government has not made any effort for a discussion, which forced the opposition to bring the motion. She also pointed that the scrapping of some contracted workers, including Cuba-trained doctors, and the decision to not include them in the pensionable system is not wise. “When we look at the arbitrary removal of contractual arrangements, then you’re hurting some persons in the public service that are highly professional and I don’t believe that the CoI intended that. Young people don’t see themselves staying in a particular place for 35 years to get a pension. It’s just not what the modern world is,” she argued.
Harmon said that upon the APNU+AFC government taking office, it found that there were arbitrary increase in wages without reference to the collective bargaining agreement and respect for the unions. “The presence of a large number of contract employees, that led to a high degree of uncertainty in the work force. Many employees were left to function with little or no prospect of promotion while contract systems were used to catapult contract employees into senior positions,” he pointed out.