This week I planned to write about the much vaunted Public Service Act (PSA) that has failed miserably to live up to its billing about improving the operations of the Public Service. But before I do, please allow me to take a detour to address something that has affected me personally.
On Tuesday, December 5, 2017 I was at home relaxing and my phones started to ring off the hook. Several callers alerted me to a debate that was going on in the House of Assembly, where some reference was made about me. Even though my name was not mentioned by the particular member of parliament, he was so explicit that several persons were able to identify me.
I will not go into specifics, other than to say that the remarks were untrue. But I will say that persons, speaking from the floor of the House of Assembly, should not use that forum to falsely attribute things to private citizens, who do not have the right to reply before the same audience.
In accordance with the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act, members of parliament cannot be sued for anything they say in the House. That privilege should not be abused. Enough said for now.
On December 31, 2007 the Public Service Act came into force. Its long title states:
An Act to revise and consolidate the law relating to the administration of the public service for the purpose of achieving greater efficiency and effectiveness in the management of that service and for matters related thereto.
I make bold to say, without fear of sensible contradiction, that the lofty goals of “achieving greater efficiency and effectiveness” have not been even slightly achieved. The Public Service is far worse than it was prior to these “legislated improvements”.
Persons who are unfamiliar with the actual legislation would most likely conclude that it only deals with appointments and promotions, since that’s all the public hears about. In that regard, it has ushered in a regime that has thwarted the legitimate expectations of promotions and appointments for deserving officers, in preference for relatives of senior public officers and politically aligned persons.
The 1978 Public Service Regulations, that were largely replaced by the PSA, were far superior to what currently obtains. Under the old regulations, an officer who was superseded had an avenue to question and reverse his supersession. No such provisions were made under the PSA. That is why so many public officers have to resort to the courts, which unfortunately move like molasses flowing uphill.
The PSA is probably the worst piece of legislation that I have encountered in the 37 years that I have been involved in the Public Service, first as an employee and then as a workers’ representative. However, I do not want to give the impression that there are no positive aspects of the legislation. I will deal with one now and over time others will be highlighted in subsequent columns.
Paragraphs 11 and 12 if the Code of Conduct and Ethics, the Second Schedule to the PSA, originally gave me hope that the the authorities were finally going to do something about the endemic corruption and other misbehaviour among many senior public officers.
Subparagraph 11.(1) instructs a public officer to report if he is being required to act in a way that is, among other things: illegal; improper; or unethical. Similarly, subparagraph 11.(2) requires an officer to report any evidence of criminal or unlawful activities by others. The officer shall report such activities to his head of department, and where the head of department is involved, the report should be made to the Head of the Public Service.
Also, it is a major offence that merits dismissal if an officer fails to report this criminal activity. And any such reports shall be done in accordance with the procedure laid down in the appropriate guidelines or rules of conduct for the officer’s ministry or department. This all sounds so nice but after 10 years no guidelines have been published, and as far as I am aware, no drafts have ever been circulated.
This alone demonstrates how serious Government is about stamping out corruption in the Public Service.