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…opposition says as it criticises dismantling of staff college
By Svetlana Marshall
The Bertram Collins College was established out of a clear need for an efficient Public Service, Opposition Member of Parliament, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley said, while noting that prior to 2015, Guyanese were faced with a Public Service that was inefficient and archaic.
“In 2015, when the APNU+AFC rose to Government, there were continuous cries from the citizenry that the public service was inefficient and archaic. Ministries as well as public agencies worked as silos and were unable to properly provide the services that the public expected and deserved,” Sarabo-Halley said during a virtual press conference on Tuesday.
The former Public Service Minister, who served under the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Government, pointed out that an inquiry into the Public Service found that there was need for modernisation and professionalisation at every level.
At the time, she was responding to a decision by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government to close the Public Service College, which was established by the David Granger Administration in 2016 as a driving force for the transformation of the country’s public service into a professional institution to serve every citizen with integrity, impartiality, objectivity and corporate identity.
In defense of its decision, the Government, through the Ministry of Public Service, contended that the Bertram Collins College was a political machinery for the APNU+AFC that served little to no purpose but Sarabo-Halley said this is farthest from the truth.
The APNU+AFC Parliamentarian explained that the college was designed to train public servants at the entry, junior management, middle management and senior management levels. “The College was opened in 2016 with entry requirements for applicants between the ages of sixteen to twenty-one, six subject at CSEC with Grades I and II including Mathematics and English. The benefits for the successful applicants included uniforms, stipend, transportation, meals, study tour in Guyana, individual laptops, accommodation for persons from remote areas, and guaranteed employment for graduates,” she detailed.
Sarabo-Halley said it is unconscionable that the Government would close down an educational institution that was created to resolve one of the myriad of problems facing the public service.
“The four cohorts that graduated from the Bertram Collins came from all cross sections of Guyana. The administration of Bertram Collins went into all regions of this country to ensure that placement was equitable and that all regions and ethnicities were represented in each cohort. Any statement or inference that suggests otherwise is patently false,” the APNU+AFC Member of Parliament said.
She added that the Bertram Collins College gave intelligent and vibrant young Guyanese from all corners of Guyana the ability to interact and engage each other in a learning environment.
According to the statement issued by the Public Service Ministry on Monday, the College was acting as a duplicate to the Ministry’s Training Division which conducts staff development programmes. But Sarabo-Halley said there was a vast difference.
“The Ministry of Public Service Training Division trains public servants, persons who are already in the Public Service, and we were giving scholarships to persons who had worked for four or more years and or had completed their degrees or masters, and this was completely different from what the Bertram College was doing, which was trying to recruit a new set of persons, and once recruited give them a year of training,” Sarabo-Halley explained.
The Opposition MP said all of Guyana would agree that the public service is in dire need of well-trained professional intakes. “If structural flaws are found how could the sincere response be to close the entire institution,” Sarabo-Halley questioned.
She further added: “What is of concern to us now is how the four cohorts approximately 240 young people will be treated by the Ministry of the Public Service and the other Ministries in which they work. Will there be stifling of promotions or will attempts be made to frustrate them to the point where they feel they must resign?”
Sarabo-Halley said the decision to close the college is no different from the one taken to close the State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA) or dismiss staff of the National Data Management Agency (NDMA).
“This news coupled with the sending home of staff from the NDMA when so many other agencies presumably poised to become digitised, require their skills , the treatment of staff at the Guyana Forestry Commission, the non- renewal of contracts of professional men and women who are best suited for the positions they held, the innumerable number of public servants who have chosen to resign rather than continue to work under this regime and not to forget those who continue to work but in complete fear and anxiety daily not knowing whether they will be next without a salary come next month , is egregious,” she said.
The Opposition MP said it is clear that the PPP/C Administration had no interest in a professional public service.