Political Activities of Civil Servants – The Case of John Pinder
NASSAU: Much ado has been made about John Pinder’s political activities. This Government, through its Minister of the Public Service (who should know better and do better), has defended Pinder’s actions with the view that until Pinder is nominated, he is “okay”. Minister Rolle says that it is a crafty way to get around the rule that requires that a civil servant resign upon nomination for political office.
Since the Secretary to Cabinet nor his Permanent Secretary has advised him, we point him to General Orders, those ancient protocols that guide the conduct of members of the Civil Service. They provide the Code of Ethics and Rules of Conduct that apply to ALL categories of officers, whether permanent and pensionable or otherwise engaged.
John Pinder is the Director of Labour. As such, he is the chief technical advisor to the Minister on matters related to the Department of Labour.
General Orders 949 provides that “the first duty of a public officer is to give his undivided allegiance to the state […] and voluntarily enters a profession in which his service to the public will take a nonpolitical form; and whatever may be his political inclination his impartiality in the performance of his duty must be beyond suspicion. It follows therefore that a public officer should not normally take any active part in matters of public, or; political controversy, and particularly if the matter is one with which he is officially concerned.”
The Order goes on in 949(2) to define political activities, among other things, as “(a) adoption as a candidate for election to The House of Assembly” and “(e) canvassing or distributing Pamphlets, etc…on behalf of a candidate or political party”. The Order explicitly advises that this does not deprive an officer his right to MEMBERSHIP of a political party.
Minister Brensil Rolle, in his ignorance or blatant attempt to justify Mr. Pinder’s activities, gave attention only to paragraph 2(a) that requires an officer to resign forthwith from The Public Service when he is adopted for election to the House of Assembly.
However, if we pay attention to 949(4), which rationalises political participation (including canvassing and its attendant activities), it divides members of the Public Service into three groups – politically restricted, intermediate, and politically free. 949(4)(a) defines the ‘politically restricted’ group as “senior public officers particularly those whose duties include advising Ministers, or; who may be serving in a sensitive post, or; in a senior and influential position as ‘completely debarred from all political activities’.”
If Minister Rolle does not know better, certainly Mr. Pinder should, given all of his vast experience in public service, industrial relations and human resources matters. He is not free to do as he pleases as the Director of Labour. He has gotten himself into a pickle where he cannot, with integrity, offer frank and fearless advice to Government on any question. This is why General Orders at 932 particularly warns a public officer to avoid becoming “publicly involved in any political controversy, unless he becomes so involved through no fault of his own” or participate in activities that may “reasonably be regarded as of a political or administrative nature” so as to avoid The Public Service becoming involved in such controversy.
John Pinder has been canvassing for the Free National Movement in the Fox Hill Constituency. He is free to do so, but not while being employed as the Director of Labour. He must refrain or resign. On second consideration, since he is already in violation with the defence of the political directorate, he should be made to resign or be fired by the Public Service. It is as simple as that.