After more than two decades, members of the public service now have recourse in matters of appointments, dismissals or other forms of disciplinary action with the appointment of the Registrar of the Public Service Appellate Tribunal (PSAT)
Newly accepted member of the bar Amoura Giddings was appointed Registrar of the tribunal by President David Granger last week and the young attorney said her new position is right up her alley as she always wanted to work in an area that offers assistance to people who may be struggling.
She believes that the tribunal will assist public servants who may have been unable to afford legal assistance to now do so almost free of cost.
While the members of the tribunal – Chairperson Nandram Kissoon and members Abiola Wong-Inniss and Winston Browne – were sworn in since May, Giddings was only sworn in last week and it is expected that by the end of this month the first hearing will be held, since four cases are already before the tribunal.
In an interview with the Sunday Stabroek Giddings explained that the tribunal, which is located at Lot 39 Brickdam, Stabroek, is a constitutional office, which hears cases of public servants who first would have had to have their matters addressed at the Public Service Commission (PSC) and must be granted leave by same to approach the tribunal.
After being granted leave by the PSC the aggrieved person has 90 days within which to file an appeal but Giddings said the Act under which the PSAT is governed does provide for members of the tribunal to extend that time frame.
To file the notice of appeal the person must visit the tribunal’s Brickdam office and uplift a form on which to list the grounds of appeal. While persons can be assisted at the tribunal through this process, the Registrar said there are lawyers who also provide pro bono service in this regard. When the appeal is filed the $100 fee must be paid.
After the matter is filed, it’s for the Registrar to put the matter before the tribunal and its members will then decide on a preliminary hearing date; the Registrar will inform the appellant or his/her lawyer of same.
There is then a preliminary hearing, during which the members would decide what issues need to be ironed out; there could be more than one preliminary hearing depending on the matter. At this stage, the members could rule that the appellant has no case or rule that there should be a substantive hearing on the matter.
The members will have a time frame within which to decide on the matter. Giddings pointed out that they would be cognizant of the fact that it is a person’s personal property, such as salaries and pensions. The tribunal’s decision will be directed to the PSC and while the decision is final for that commission, the appellant can seek further redress in the court, if not satisfied. The tribunal can rule that a person be reinstated in a position or be paid off with all entitled benefits such as pension.
Meantime, she revealed that the Chairman and members of tribunal are already looking at crafting recommendations which can see employees across the board benefiting from the services of the tribunal. However, before this can be done there would need to be a constitutional change.
Giddings said this is something she would push for because it would give aggrieved employees, whether state or private, an opportunity to access affordable judicial redress.
As registrar, Giddings’s role includes judicial functions and assisting the tribunal in taking evidence along with other administrative operations of the office.
With a staff of seven Giddings said that the office is in the process of becoming fully operational; four cases have been filed before the tribunal and already it has been determined that the tribunal does not have jurisdiction over two.
As it relates to the remaining two, the tribunal has acknowledged receipt by way of letter but there are some issues to be ironed out before they can be heard. Both of the cases are very old and the individuals are seeking their employment benefits as opposed to being reinstated.
The first preliminary hearing should be done by this month end and Giddings said that the hearings will be open to the public.
“The tribunal is important because there have been cases where employees have been dismissed and cannot afford legal redress and this is an affordable way they can access judicial redress,” Giddings said.
Asked about the hiring process, Giddings said she became aware of the circular publishing the vacancy and she applied and was appointed following an interview process. She explained that prior to reading to become a lawyer she had lectured part time at the University of Guyana in the department of business and management studies and she was also employed as a clerk at the Guyana Power and Light and her job included responding to written queries by customers. She believes that the two jobs assisted her in acquiring management and people skills, which are needed in her present position.
“I have read the Public Service Tribunal Act and Rules and given the requirements for the position of registrar, I think I possess the necessary expertise and skills to perform those functions effectively and efficiently,” she said.
She also pointed out that her law studies have prepared her to perform the legal functions of the position.
According to Giddings, she feels blessed on her new appointment as one of her dreams was to assist humanity in whatever way she can and she believes that as Registrar of the tribunal she is being afforded that opportunity.
She explained that she has had her fair share of struggles in the past, which she believes she would have been unable to overcome were it not for the assistance of many persons.
“I don’t think I would have been where I am today, if it wasn’t for the generosity of persons who wanted to see me succeed as much as I did. Given this background, being the Registrar was the ideal start in which I can give back to society,” the young attorney said.
She said she has fought to better her life, academically, socially and economically and as such can relate to public servants and any employee who would be fighting to keep their jobs or be reinstated.
“I think I am prepared, it is not a difficult job. I am up for a challenge, I think it is the opportune time to craft something with my personality, which is actually helping people and being of service of humanity,” the new registrar said.
“I am not afraid, for he says ‘fear not for I am with you…’ I know I am here for a purpose and my God-given purpose is to impact the world in my little own way; and service to others is my way of making my contribution to society,” she further said.