The Barbados Civil Service: An Army of Occupation Or A Tale Of Manipulation?

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Click on image to access full Barbados Ministries Directory

Recent discussion has placed the role of the Barbados Civil Service under the microscope, specifically that of the Permanent Secretary (PS) who is the person in charge of the ministry, and not the Minister. BU family members mirror the view of many Barbadians that the PS’ have been getting a free ride given the proclivity of Barbadians to blame the Ministers aka politicians for everything which go wrong.

Wikipedia explains that the role of the PS interestingly enough is responsible for: “… ensuring that the Department (ministry) spends money granted by Parliament appropriately. Permanent Secretaries are thus frequently called for questioning by the Public Accounts Committee and Select Committees of the House of Commons. The permanent secretary usually chairs a department’s management board which consists of executive members (other civil servants in the department) and non-executive directors.”

The 10 month old David Thompson assumed the reigns of government promising to root out corruption in government. So far it seems to John Citizen that their efforts are being stymied for a number of reasons. We have witnessed the attempt to fire the General Manager of the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) who has so far escaped on a technicality. There is the mess inherited at the Urban Development Commission (UDC) and Rural Development Commission (RDC) which has caused one causality so far, Minister Denis Lowe.  We have to say in his defence that some files have been reported to have gone missing in his ministry which halted serious investigations. It appears that Minister Chris Sinckler has been scarified to lend his grass roots appreciation to rationalizing the RDC and UDC. We have also heard the rumblings that the PS at the Ministry of Agriculture and Minister Benn don’t see eye to eye.

There is also the issue of the influence the PS wields and by extension the Civil Service because of their high level of membership in the fraternal organization of freemasonry aka lodge. They continue to deny it but enough has leaked out to suggest that the kinship derived from being a Freemason may have wider implication for decision making within Barbados. Perhaps talk show host Tony Marshall can enlightened Barbadians given his leading role in a lodge. He is joined by policemen, lawyers, judges, bankers and others  prominent members of society.

Given the job description of the PS and the massive overruns which has affected several projects through the years, many of them should have demitted office in shame. Instead the PS’ are shuffled around like musical chairs. How does that approach help to improve efficiency in government?

BU family member Bush tea is always able to articulate on these matters in a way that causes us to pause. The BU household is sensitive to the fact that they are some who may want to feedback on the matter raised away from the glare of others. In those cases you are welcome to click on the feedback option.

Any information forwarded to give us a grasp of this issue will be treated as requested.


  • David, there is an excellent British TV sitcom series that was called “Yes Minister” and then metamorphosed into “Yes Prime Minister”. Apart from the fact that it is very funny, it also shows exactly what the power of the PS is in Britain and in the former British colonies. My view that government ought to be changed by the electorate every 8 years springs, not just from the desire to see a new and un-complacent government uncorrupted by their views of their own infallibility come in and take over on a regular basis – until we have to kick them out too, but also from a desire to see that PSs and other civil servants have their power and entrenchment strictly curtailed and their attempts to ham-string any new government eradicated with prejudice – after all, it is the MPs who are elected by us, not the PSs and other civil servants.

    I am sure that my fellow Bajans and members of the BU family appreciate the importance of this issue and I am very much looking forward to reading the comments of others. You have hit on a situation that needs to be aired fully.

    BWWR here is a link to Youtube with a few video clips of the popular show. We have to admit that it was one of our favourites, hilarity at its best. Do our PS’ operate as portrayed at the expense of the ministers in Barbados? Do they have that savvy and/control?



  • I am in a holding patern. See how the rest come first.


  • Like almost everything else in life, there are many sides to this issue. No doubt, there are a number of outstanding public servants who have made, and continue to make, brilliant contributions to Barbados and indeed, to the region.

    The issue here is the noticeable and growing tendency for persons not suited to such powerful roles, to quietly sit un-noticed while effectively frustrating the legitimate desires of the Barbadian public and often, that of our elected politicians.

    Some issues are glaring:
    *The failure to put the police complaints authority in place
    *The lack of professionalism in the whole ABC highway/flyover/ Greenland/ Prison schemes
    *the continuing under performance of the Youth service /Library/Sports Council
    ….and many many more.

    Should we not be made privy to the advice provided to the various ministers by the public servants in these issues?

    Those that clearly do not perform (read that as ACHIEVE RESULTS) should be replaced with effective performers.

    If we retain a system that rewards non performers then WE DESERVE the current situation of expensive failures in our public service..

    One of the duties of a good PS is to be able to resist UNPROFESSIONAL actions from politicians. This is why ministers are not allowed to fire them. However, we must have some mechanism to ensure that the reverse situation (un-professional behaviour by a PS) is addressed as well.

    On the question of the effect of the Lodges and friendly societies, I believe that ITAL should require ALL such allegiance to be made public by all public officials. Decisions that they make which could constitute a conflict of interest should then be subject to review if anyone feels aggrieved.

    ..this is another one of our dirty secrets that very few like to talk about (I guess the few of us NOT so aligned…)


  • here is a lecture given my a former British Cabinet Secretary (Head of Civil Service) on Civil Service Reform that can help inform your debate.


  • Here is a fascinating tale of the challenge of being a Permanent Secretary in the Westminster System of government. What we gather from the text is that then efficient workings of government is dependant on a relationship of trust between the Minister who is transient and the PS who is permanent.


  • Bush Tea:
    > Should we not be made privy to the advice provided to the various ministers by the public servants in these issues?

    I would tend towards ‘No’ here. Civil servants need to be able to speak their minds freely to their political overseers without fear of potential public persecution.

    Somehow we need to balance the need for full disclosure with the need to protect the neutrality and integrity of the Civil Service.


  • Appointment of permanent secretaries and certain other public officers

    99.1 Notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding provisions of this Chapter –

    except as provided in paragraph (b), power to make appointments to the offices to which this section applies is hereby vested in the Governor General, acting on the recommendation of the appropriate Service Commission made after that Commission has consulted the Prime Minister; and

    power to make appointments to the office of a permanent secretary on transfer from another such office carrying the same salary is hereby vested in the Governor General, acting on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

    I still maintain that at the end of the day the politicians are to blame if their policy directives are not carried out.


  • The minister is holds the ultimate responsibility and therefore must hold the ultimate blame if anything goes wrong.The minister can and sometimes do apply for the P.S to be re-allocated if in his/her interest the P.S is not functioning to his/her satisfaction. The P.M can make that decision, this therefore places ALL the responsibility/ blame on thye Minister.


  • Here are the email addresses of the PS’s if the BU family wants to communicate with these important government functionaries.
    Also here is the link to the government website which documents Public Sector reform. After reading the lecture by former British Cabinet Secretary our jaws dropped in awe at the tremendous gap we have to straddle with current state and what is required to manage in 2008. The problem of public sector reform needs to be prioritized.


  • @neil
    Professional advice is not about ‘speaking one’s mind’ it is about giving expert advice which is based on technical expertise, experience and professional competence. It is the sort of thing that consultants are paid to do everyday.
    For example,
    With Greenland, Liz was obviously clueless, yet she was tasked to make definitive statements about the viability of the project.
    What was the professional advice from her PS?
    having wasted $40 million there, who is he/she advising now?

    @Scout &General Lee
    Having responsibility and having control are two completely different things.. may have responsibility for your teenage daughter, but if Asiba smile at her and sing one of his sweet songs you ain’t got a bit of control….


  • @David… You’ve made a slight mistake in your above… The second link is exactly the same as the first.

    I do find it somewhat amusing that the e-mail addresses are contained within a PDF… But then, for that matter, so is just about every link from this site.

    Gosh, is HTML, and the World Wide Web, too difficult to handle for those leading us?

    Thanks Chris, we corrected! You have made an interesting observation when we factor the importance of the Internet and e-government in todays world. The current government websites do not inspire confidence. Who is the PS responsible for e-government?


  • After having my memory jogged by BWWR, I’ve spent a pleasant youtube hour with the excellent Yes Min & PM.

    30 years old yet still holding mighty relevance. True genious.

    Of all the memorable lines, the phrase which most struck a chord was in Terminology.

    HRRC -Human Resource Rich Country.

    A phrase we are proud to adopt.

    But if these rich human resources are not applied to production , was all the expense and suffering worth it?

    Do we really need more attorneys, graduated management trainees with no jobs and an unproductive pool of political/media students?

    I don’t think EWB or even Beckles envisaged an un(der)employed graduate in every household.

    The time is now to shift emphasis from
    traditional careers to the opportunities entrepreneurial skills offer for a wider spectrum of our young people.

    This is where we lag behind the world, and this is where our future success will lay.

    Self-confidence should be taught, nurtured and respected for the individual as much as we expect it for our country.

    Self employment is the ultimate in human development.

    Making your own way, ploughing your own furrow, sinking or swimming by your own achievements.

    The PM has indicated he is prepared to support this movement and we should all support his effort for a more assertive, vibrant and rewarded workforce.


  • Straight Talk
    I actually thought that I was the one to introduce the sit-coms “Yes Mr. Minister” and so on in a response to the Bushman in the previous thread. Oh no BWWR tief my t’under.

    look man, at the 33rd Sir Winston Scott Mem Lecture on Monday, The Hon John Ralston Saul “Small Societies in a Big World” said precisely that. He spoke to the training and producing of managers by the University as opposed to training and producing of leaders. He spoke of creating schools of excellence on topics that are germane to the Caribbean as opposed to working with outside Universities to develop the relevant programs. He spoke of not accepting the myth of Globalisation and working with other regions (like South America) to develop Alternatives; about China’s desire to simply develop as China and that the Western models for development were ill-defined and not cast in stone; about .. man if yah miss it yah should blame yaself


  • Seems I’m on the same wavelength as The Hon John Ralston Saul.

    Just goes to prove you don’t need to be in Who’s Who to know what’s what.


  • Straight Talk,

    You are quite correct. You should read some of the man’s work. Some Canadians dont like him because he calls a spade a spade. He is the husband of our previous Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. She is Chinese so no surprise there. Our current GG is black and they dont like her husband either. He does not write, but apparently has produced some telling documentaries in Quebec on the PQ situation and is labelled a ‘separatist’ whatever that is.

    Saul’s latest book on Canadian culture has the establishment’s pants in knots. lol


  • The PM has a clear hand at the assignment of PSs; with far less stress than a Cabinet reshuffle; and because of that stroke of the pen, the PSs are under the direct control of the PM. A Minister has no control beyond what the PM gives, when it comes to the actions of the PSs.

    A PS will more than likely consult the PM if a Minister’s request is not in line with his brief from the PM.

    Spending, allocation of budgets and approval of line items (all spending) has to be approved by the PM. All roads leads to the PM. What a Minister can do depends on the extent to which the PM agrees.


  • Pat you don’ talk to me nah more


  • It seems that several BU family members are lodge people?


  • David
    If that is so then we’re very matured and responsible people


  • Which lodge that?


  • Rok
    He don’ mean Lodge School. Of course you must inquire how it is that the school aquired that name in the first place.



    I didn’t assume anything and you posing a good question. However, the lodge part had to do with boarding, I believe.

    My good friend was encouraging me to join one but I was skeptical at the time.


  • @David,
    I am quite sure that you know that large numbers of Bajans are lodge ‘brothers’. The join up in their numbers because it is sold as a network that provides ‘benefits’ and connections if one plays by the rules.

    Many job appointments, loan approvals, court case dismissals, price discounts and a myriad of other ‘benefits’ are attached to being part of this ‘brotherhood’

    The problem is that it impedes justice, fair competition, productivity and it promotes secrecy and suspicion.

    The lodge is a haven for lazy, non producers who are protected by their connections from sanctions. It is a place for law-breakers to bypass the normal process

    Dean Crichlow once said that the lodge ‘makes good men better’… I cannot speak to that, but I know that it creates a secret, fractured, anti-competitive, unfair society.

    ….it is not much more than a high class gang.


  • The Council of Economic Advisors which has been established by government to advise given the current economic crisis has recommended a stimulus package of 80-120 million dollars. The council is drawn from private sector, labour, academia. We note that members of the civil service were not included, or was this an oversight?

    We think it is a very proactive move on the part of government. Is this a strategy to work around the bureaucrats?


  • Talk your talk BT. There is a high profile case in court right now being reported in the dailies. I waiting for outcome of that case because the main subject is a deeply active lodge man. His lawyers are lodge men. The judge is a woman. Are women eligible to join lodges?

    Lodges should be investigated because they have potential to pervert justice.


  • Hopefully we can get a response from The Scout!

    We understand that women are not members but are allowed into the inner circle on special occasions.


  • The Barbados Civil Service is more than an army of occupation and greater than a tale of manipulation especially and the Island’s biggest financial institution, NIS. There is no more room for transparency no space for integrity and lacking are the fellas called trust and communication. MISMANAGEMENT IS MORE LIKE IT AT NIS and NUPW selling staff wholesale. Dennis Clarke refuse to sit with the staff relating to matters of supersession, victimization and disrespect. The Director Ian Carrington and Assistant Director Brenda Evelyn continue to staff that organization as they see fit with the support and assistance from the staff at PAD especially J. Edwards.


  • While I may not know all of those persons who are brothers within the Lodge, I can say that my name was given to them as someone who offendede an Anglican Priest in 1996 and from then until now, despite my skills qualifications, competence and professionalism in my job I have been overlooked for promotion even though I had attended an interview for a post of SPO on 9th November 2009. Persons who had not even applied for the post have now gone ahead of me and are acting while I sit around and watch how the boss keeps me stifled because as far as she is concerned I have “outgrown the department”. The boss behaves to those who are not “Yes” persons as though we have no right to upward mobility under her “soul selling” and devilish leadership.


  • your boss MS Baker was catapulted to the top in a critical department which she cannot handle and is insecure.In this scenario, everyone is a threat. Management of Public service institutions are peculiar in nature and require grounding from the bottom not hers and hands on experience in addition to paper qualifications which more often than not say little in the particular environment in which you are placed.i can recall an instance where a certain gentleman was invited to head a revenue collecting agency and gentleman that he was declined citing of knowledge but was coerced into accepting the post armed with the advice that ‘you would learn’.


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  • On the subject of Public Service and (un)Civil Servants, some of them seem to have forgotten that by their presence they serve – and are paid by – the public.

    I am a born Bajan who left in 1980 to work for LIAT in Antigua – 16 years there. I live in Canada and get a small pension from Barbados. I had a minor question in relation to my pension, and sent an email to someone I had been in contact with in the National Insurance office. There was no reply. Two days later I repeated the email. There was no reply. Needing a simple answer, a week later I sent the email again, no response again.

    So the following day I sent two identical emails, no reply.
    The day after four identical emails, no reply.
    The day after eight identical emails, no reply.
    The day after sixteen identical emails, no reply.
    The day after thirty two identical emails, no reply.
    The day after sixty four identical emails, no reply.
    The day after one hundred and twenty eight identical emails, no reply.
    The day after two hundred and fifty six identical emails, no reply.
    The day after five hundred and twelve identical emails, no reply.

    Then I received an email with the simple reply I wanted – it was not from her, but from her manager. It took nine days escalating and over a thousand emails to get a simple reply to a simple question from someone whose salary is paid by our taxes.

    This kind of experience is something that should not happen. And people should not have to wait in the sun and rain for four hours to renew a drivers licence under several steuppsses from people whose mouths stick quite out in scorn for the people they are serving.

    And why did they centralise away from the Police Stations the conversion from a foreign drivers licence to a Temporary Drivers Permit (for tourists) to require that they travel to Bridgetown in the heat of the day to perform such a simple task?

    Bureaucracy in Barbados is killing its spirit, Queen Mia knows what all the the problems are – including the legal delays and sheer stupidity in that arena – and does nothing to make changes.


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