Highly trained Permanent Secretaries should be running their ministries and accountable to the people

Dear Editor,

For ministers of Government not to admit that they have made a mistake, is completely incomprehensible; it would be much better for your political career to admit making an error, than to keep insisting that you did not, especially when everyone knows that you did.  To admit that you messed up and take measures to rectify it, isn’t fatal to a political career, but not owning up to it, is.

It is what is wrong with our governments, it is why they cannot run the country. Our Westminster system visualizes highly trained managers, managing the departments of government as Permanent Secretaries, with political Ministers just providing political guidance and agendas. It cannot be the vision of any country to take a man or woman who was yesterday a non-managerial worker and suddenly thrust them into the position of being the sole manager of our multibillion dollar Ministry, unprepared to listen to their Permanent Secretaries and balling up the entire situation.

   I see reported in the media that this government is going to be reshuffling the Permanent Secretaries.  That is just what we needed, shuffling the same old deck of Permanent Secretaries who were mostly selected, over time, not for their managerial skills, but for their malleability to overlook political lawlessness in their Ministries by their Ministers and not seen as the highly trained public servant in the specific Ministry in which he/she came up through the ranks and understands it totally, and has been a high flier making his/her way to the top of the ladder as Permanent Secretary, which is what our laws visualize i.e. specialists in their fields. Incredibly the situation has gone so far out of whack that an incompetent administration can see our permanent secretaries as being so irrelevant that they can be shuffled from Ministry to Ministry? It’s the politicians trying to blame the public servants for their shortcomings.

Since the Ministers are only supposed to provide political guidance in their Ministries, they can be shuffled but not the PSs. So when I see that the Government intends to shuffle its PSs, I know, that as I understand the system, these people totally don’t know what they are doing.

  Even our public has come to view the situation of these poorly qualified political Ministerial appointees as being the sole decision makers in their Ministries and are showering them with praises [or not] for doing what is mostly shallow, overpriced and ineffective work, frequently riddled with corruption.

   This is not the system our laws visualize, and now it means that we Guyanese have to demand that it returns to the system visualized by our laws, since these untrained Ministers making major decisions which they are not competent to make, have proved to be a disaster for the entire country.  Whichever government comes to power they must follow our laws, they must not bend it to facilitate corruption. This is a national call on my part, not a political one, I don’t care which side is in power, if we let the system operate the way it is written in our laws, then many of our inherent problems will disappear. For once we have to come together as one nation and demand it. I want to see highly trained Permanent Secretaries doing exactly that, permanently running their ministries and accountable to the people of Guyana. And because we will see them as the main architects of our future wellbeing, we want them to be accountable to us. It would mean that any government which went into power and changed what are supposed to be Permanent Secretaries, they are violating the constitution.

Another reason for our problem is the long periods our governments stay in power, first the PNC were in power for 28 years, then the PPP went in and were in power for 23 years, this is a recipe for disaster. When a party or group of parties are in power for over 20 years, they don’t govern well, they become ineffectual and incompetent [or more incompetent as the case way be]. This happens inevitably because in this winner-take-all political system which we have, it is clear that being in opposition for 20 odd years diminishes their activism and effectiveness since they are becoming poorer and poorer to mobilize themselves and their supporters effectively or are just plain fed up. In such systems the weaker the opposition gets the more complacent and corrupt the one in power gets. And when finally through the ballot, and most times too late, the people express their outrage at what is going on and vote for change, they are voting to put into power a set of people who have no idea what they have to do when in power because they have been in opposition for so long; not to mention the feeding frenzy of corruption which results from their being deprived of being at the feast table for over 20 years.

Neither side wants to do anything about this winner-take-all system, the systems which the constitutional reforms sought to introduce are not being followed, both sides prefer to rule as dictators and the small concessions which accompany such appointments as Chancellor, Chief Justice and Chairman of GECOM become victims of the dictatorship. The reforms had an aim, and it was to start inclusivity in the decision-making process in these important appointments, just to name one area, that the two sides will compromise and cooperate with each other through give and take and negotiation, but notwithstanding that this is the law, both sides pay no attention to it, they each want to rule forever and give nothing to their opposition.

At this time all Guyanese must be aware that our dealings with Exxon have been very amateurish and in the end the people of Guyana will end up with less than they are entitled to, the examples all across this planet supports the conclusion that countries like Guyana get rich, but the common man and woman end up worse off than before they found the particular natural resource which can lead to massive wealth. At this time the team we have facing Exxon to negotiate our oil benefits, is comparable to a bottom house bat and ball team trying to play test cricket against Pakistan. For those who will tell me about the democratic elections we have in Guyana, I only have this to say which I have said before, you can’t have democratic elections to elect a dictator. 

Yours faithfully,

Tony Vieira

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