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The portfolio of the Minister of Public Service is critical to the effective and efficient management of the entire public service. The scope afforded the Ministry and the Minister of the Public Service if handled wisely could lead to a well-designed and organised institution retrofitted to provide exemplary services to all who come into its contact. At this critical juncture our government ministries and agencies require a dedicated and constructive approach to ensure that the right policies are developed and implemented.
The Public Service Ministry has received two Budgetary allocations over the last year. During this time much attention has been placed on a particular aspect of the Minister’s portfolio; the launching, implementing and marketing of the GOAL Scholarship programme, for which the bulk of the administrative work is being handled by the Ministry of Education. The issuing of scholarships is an important aspect of the responsibilities of the Minister of the Public Service, and it is placed under the care of this particular Ministry because it is expected that scholarship recipients, on the successful completion of their programmes, would utilise their new skills and knowledge to further professionalise this area of government.
However, this is not the case for the GOAL recipients as they are not bound to work in the public service, post studies. In response to questions I asked of the Minister of the Public Service in Parliament it was stated that “the recipients of the scholarships, will be contractually obligated to provide community service before completing the programme of study and that the duration of the community service is relative to the length of their studies”. The community service does not go beyond eight weeks. This would be true also for public servants who are GOAL Scholarship recipients and thus they can choose after completing their programmes, to leave the public service if they are so inclined. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the Ministry of the Public Service has spent the entire year marketing a programme that is likely to have very little impact on or benefit to the Public Service.
This then begs the question, what policies have been instituted by the Minister of Public Service or the broader administration, over the last year, that can be highlighted as a step in the direction of the modernising and restructuring desperately needed for the Public Service? There has been no attempt to undertake a human resource needs assessment for our country which should be done by the Public Service Ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and the Immigration Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs. In fact, over the last year the management of our human resources in the public sector has been abysmal. So many professionals have been relieved of their duties or have left out of frustration as an intensive centralized approach to governance has once again taken root. There seems to be no positive work experience for employees, our essential workers in the health care sector, GUYOIL workers, our teachers and sugar workers have all gone on strike since August 2020.
There has been no organisational development and no effort to shift from a personnel management approach to a human resource management approach.
The Minister of Public Service must account for the work of her Ministry over the last year, and explain if plans or programmes have been developed to assure our public servants that the Minister and the Ministry of Public Service are working in their best interest.
Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, MP