Cabinet Secretary comments on Public Service is a bold attack on the competence and dedication of Bahamians

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Signing the Bahamas Government/Oban Energies Heads of Agreement – Camille Johnson, Secretary to the Cabinet, on behalf of the Bahamas Government, and Peter Krieger (right) of Oban Energies at the Office of the Prime Minister, February 19, 2018. Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis is pictured, centre; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Peter Turnquest, second left; and Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister, Senator the Hon. Kwasi Thompson, left. (BIS Photo/Peter Ramsay)

The comments attributed to the Secretary to the Cabinet and the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister in the Tribune is a continuation of the trend in this administration to run down Bahamians and The Bahamas. This public attack on the competence of the dedicated and hardworking Bahamians in the senior and middle ranks of the public service is reflective of the disregard this Administration has for Bahamians.
 
The comments from the Secretary to the Cabinet, perhaps the most political Cabinet Secretary in recent memory, is not a surprise, but the comments from Permanent Secretary Office of the Prime Minister reflects a shocking level of ignorance about the public service and its operations.
 
For the record, The Bahamas Public Service on a per capita basis is the one of most academically qualified public service in the Caribbean. Every political administration since Majority Rule has made a commitment to training by providing public officers with very liberal education leave requirements inclusive of tuition reimbursements, unpaid study leave and paid leave and paid leave with tuition and allowances. If Madam Secretary took the time to have this amount quantify it would show clearly that the per capita spend on training for public officers is greater than $200 per officer.
 
It is very simplistic and naïve to simply believe that the training budget item in the Ministry of Public Service’s budget represents the entire quantum of training provided public officers. Hundreds of public officers in areas such as Finance, Agriculture, Meteorology, Information Technology, Education, Police, Defence Force and many other agencies have been afforded training at all levels included post graduate training. To give any other impression is wrong. 
 
The comments about the level of overstaffing in the Public Service is also misguided The figure of 40% was given and one could only assume that this figure was provided so as to give political cover to the diabolical plan of this Administrationto continue with the mass victimization of public officers.
 
Why would not Madam Secretary say what areas are overstaffed. Is it the Police Force where the Minister of National Security’s own manpower study showed an agency where seriously under resourced. Is it the Prison, Customs, Education orSocial Services, Postal Services, all of these agencies now crying out for more human resources? 
 
In addition, the amount of casual workers in the public sector is not a indication of over staffing but rather of very antiquated work rules which is many cases lead to officers waiting years to be confirmed in post. It is also the result of very sensible policies to provide employment opportunities in some Family Island communities. If we are one nation, is it wrong to help those who do not live in New Providence?
 
The lack of middle management again is a reflection of antiquated work rules which prevent very competent and dedicated public officers from rising in the public service simply because they had the misfortune being classified in the technical rather than the administrative scale. Both the Cabinet Secretary and the Permanent Secretary started their careers as school teachers. Are they saying that they are the exceptions! Perhaps if they invested their time in identifying these officers instead of denigrating others this would not be a problem.
 
While it is true that the salary levels of the public sector are lower than those in the private sector the real comparison should be the total public service benefit package inclusive of the non-contributory pension and for certain officersprivate health insurance. In addition, why did neither officer tell the IDB about enhance salary benefit package awarded to engineers in the last Administration.
 
This is not to say that things are fine in the public service, they are not. The public service has suffered through political interference, its information systems are old and not fit for purpose. The previous administration started theheavy lifting to modernize these systems and faced huge resistance from some quarters in the public service. This administration has rewarded many of those persons for their resistance so the future in this area is bleak.
 
The recently appointed Public Service Commission would also ensure that stagnation of the public service would continue. Amazingly it is led by It Chairman, who in her career was never a Head of Department much less a senior administrative officer. In addition, none of the new members has substantial experience in the public service at senior levels, a recipe for disaster but a very pliable Commission for victimization.
 
It is with troubling irony that the officers who have the greatest responsibility for leading and modernizing the public service have no qualms about speaking about their colleagues and subordinates publicly in such a manner.
 
This however only reflects how the Prime Minister feels about ordinary Bahamians