While I am extremely happy that Mr. Elwood Watts has prevailed against the injustice that is inherent in the Public Service: I am concerned that the resolution of this matter would create another set of problems.
I have no more knowledge of the facts of the case than what I have read in reports in the Nation. However, it is my view that the outcome flies in the face of the very same principle that Mr. Watts was seeking to address. My understanding is that the Chief Personnel Officer through her lawyer informed the court that Mr. Watts would be appointed Senior Crown Counsel. That decision might please an extremely hardworking and deserving Elwood Watts but also, it would let others off the hook for their roles in this shameful affair.
My first concern is how did the recommendation, for the original appointment, reach the Governor-General without first going through the mandatory procedure set out in the Recruitment and Employment Code for the Public Service. The code, at paragraph 2 states:
Job opportunities or vacant offices shall be advertised or published within the Public Service or outside Barbados as the case may require and all relevant information in respect of a vacant office shall be accessible to prospective applicants and shall include:
(a) the statutory qualifications required;
(b) the duties, functions and responsibilities of the office;
(c) the major terms and conditions of service applicable to the office
(d) a description of the skills, competencies, experience and personal qualities required; and
(e) the nature of the procedure of the selection process that shall be based on relevant criteria that are applied to all candidates.
From what I have read, the evidence before the court suggested that the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, headed by the Chief Justice with three other judges and the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, gave advice to the Governor-General that they knew or ought to have known conflicted with the mandatory procedures set out in the law. Again, in my view, that evidence should have been led in court and the presiding judge should have rendered a decision.
Mr. Watts’ rights were infringed and the only remedy opened to the court, after the Governor-General had signed the appointment, would have been and award of damages since the trial judge had no power to order a service commission to make an appointment. That award should have been exemplary say in the vicinity of $1 million to punish a government agency for breaching the law, especially when you consider that those involved included some of the most senior law officers in this country.
The resolution of awarding Mr. Watts the post of Senior Crown Counsel should bring him no comfort as a law officer. It would raise the same issue that he complained of originally, in that the post that he is expected to fill has not been advertised. That can give rise to another person applying to the court pleading that that they were not given an opportunity to apply because the vacancy was not advertised. If they go ahead and hold interviews, we already know the outcome so what would be the purpose.