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Under fire over its decision to close the Bertram Collins College of the Public Service, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government, in its defence said the institution was an A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) machinery that served little purpose, all while, denying that there was nothing sinister or political about its decision.
“In fact, the Staff College was established as a political machinery for the APNU+AFC and produced an outcome contrary to fair recruitment practices. As a matter of fact, sixty (60) persons were processed per year to enter the Public Service at a Clerk III position, bypassing those experienced in a Clerk II position who earned less and in turn had to train the very persons coming out of the college,” the Public Service Ministry said in a statement.
The David Granger Administration, in establishing the college in 2016, had envisioned it to be a premier training institution for all levels of the public service, but the Public Service Ministry, on Monday said little was done to propel the College into that direction.
“The fact these persons instead were only entering the public service at the entry level, is a clear indication that entity was never intended to be a national institution, but rather a political machinery of the APNU+AFC,” it posited.
According to the Public Service Ministry, in excess of $80M was spent to rehabilitate a single building at Ogle, East Coast Demerara to house the College despite there being an active Training Division at the Ministry of Public Service which conducts staff development programmes intended to achieve the very outcome of professionalism.
It therefore concluded, that the Staff College sought to duplicate and supersede the Ministry’s Training Division.
“The annual budget for the Staff College in 2017 was a whopping $175.8M and $143.6M in 2018. Ninety-nine per cent of the staff were on contract with 50% being retirees. Recurrent expenses, that is, salaries for the staff, collectively amounted to in excess of $87M yearly. Exorbitant sums of money were being bled from the Treasury to sustain the College,” the Ministry said.
It added: “Notably, there was no recruitment of trainees for the year 2020-2021 and those who completed in the year 2020 were placed in the Public Sector.”
The Public Service Ministry said the closure of the College should come as no surprise, since, Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, publicly announced last year, the intended closure, of what it described as a “poorly-structured college…designed as a political tool for the APNU+AFC.”
It said in keeping with the PPP/C’s Manifesto, there will be a structural overhaul in training programmes geared towards advanced national training in relevant and priority areas within the Public Sector which will be catered for in the 2021 budget.
The closure of the College has placed well over 20 staff members on the breadline, adding to the hundreds of public servants and contracted employees who have been fired since the PPP/C took Office in August, 2020.
On Monday, Opposition Member of Parliament, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, who served as Minister of Public Service under the APNU+AFC Administration, said the decision to close the College was birthed out political spite and malice.
“The closure of the Bertram Collins College of the Public Service is a clear indication that the PPP regime has no interest in a professional public service and no interest in the structured and planned preparation of ambitious young people for a career in the public service,” Sarabo-Halley said in a statement.
She added: “What is obvious is in spite of the PPP’s rhetoric, their only interest is in a politicized public service that they can emasculate, manipulate and control.”
The APNU+AFC, she said, condemns, what she described as a continuing campaign against public servants. Sarabo-Halley said all right-thinking Guyanese should also standup against targeting and suppression of Guyana’s public service.
The Bertram Collins Public Service College was established by President David Granger in 2016 as part of his Administration’s efforts to rein in corruption and improve efficiency in the Public Sector.
Over the past five years, the college has been a driving force in transforming Guyana’s public service into a professional institution to serve every citizen with integrity, impartiality, objectivity and corporate identity.