The Frustration of Running a Government Entity

Submitted by Roslyn Stanherd

The Public Service (Appointments) Act 2020 has passed and appointments are being made across the public service and I assume statutory bodies. Like Michelle M. Russell in her article ‘Good move for Public servants’ in the Sunday Sun of 4 October 2020, I too am concerned about section 6(1) of the Public Service Act which makes certain employees ineligible for appointment in that I believe it can be punitive. Though it is not a situation I now face, it forms a thread in my work history and is the final catalyst that caused the offering of details about my move to retirement.

Micromanagement at my former work place resulted in my raising concerns about the tone on top with my final position being offense is taken not given. Suspension was swift with the charge that I was undermining the Committee. It took two (2) years to offer evidence of the same. Rather than follow through with what is known to be a long process, I accepted early pension and gratuity whose receipt was dependent on my signing a release not to sue the Committee. This Committee had had to abort the first meeting after being told it could not be both prosecutor and judge. The accusations are as follows:

  1. You abused your position as a regular attendee at the meetings of the Committee, and as such, a person privy to its deliberations, to disseminate by email to all staff of the Committee, misinformation of a serious nature which was calculated to undermine or likely to undermine, the authority of the Committee.

…As the Head who reported directly to the Committee, my job was to manage the entity. The Secretary in Attendance only disseminated information from the Committee meetings. My email spoke ONLY to my limitations about managing the same.

  1. That your action at that time was the most recent in a series of actions which demonstrate your disrespect for, and complete disregard of, the authority of the Committee. The investigation revealed:
    1. That between…. you brought in general circulation, for spending $M in matured securities without notice to the Committee and without regard for the Committee’s statutory responsible to re-invest securities for the proper maintenance and management of the investment portfolio. The amount comprised approximately 2/3 of investments, thereby compromising the Committee’s ability to properly discharge its statutory mandate.

…The Finance Manager’s projections showed that the entity’s inability to sell its government instrument on the secondary market meant even with the matured securities, there was insufficient funds to meet expected demand. In keeping with standard operating procedure, matured investments were kept to meet demand as the Committee explored means of sourcing additional funds.

  1. That, over time, you have undertaken the recruitment of persons to fill key staff positions, including the hiring of a temporary Legal Officer in the latter part of … without the approval of, or even notice to, the Committee. Further, having been instructed by the Committee, at its meeting, that future staffing issues should be brought to the attention of the Committee, or to the Chairman in situations of urgency, you sought recourse outside of the Committee, … without further reference to the Committee, in circumstances where you were not in agreement with the Committee’s decision on staffing matters, made in your presence, at the meeting of…

…Prior to the Committee’s changed position, precedent allowed the Head of the entity who was also the Personnel Officer to hire temporary staff without prior recourse to the Committee. The urgency to acquire the services of Legal officer resulted from the expansive change in the entity’s scope of operations, the unprecedented demand for loans during the peak loan demand period and the incumbent’s extended leave.

… In the midst of an expanded mandate the Committee was now reverting to operating as a public service entity. Guidance was necessary. The decision to seek the same from the first person to ever guide my management of this entity as well as to inform the Committee of the same was not ultra vires.

  1. That the tone of your correspondence to, and interaction with, the Committee and your conduct at Committee meetings are far from respectful, or professional, which was drawn to your attention in a letter to you, from the Committee on … Despite the Committee’s representations, you persisted with this conduct to such a degree to warrant a reminder from the Chairman at the Meeting of the Committee on …, that you should amend your behavior.

…The written reprimand was outside of the one (1) year band that counts towards the three (3) strike grievance procedure. What is ignored here was that a) the Committee members had minimal if any finance/banking knowledge/experience and their comfort zone was to focused on the minutiae attached to procedures rather than on policy; b) members blanked concerns and requests for guidance opting instead to confer with juniors; c) I was exhausted from managing several structural changes as Head as well as Personnel Officer, Personal Assistant/Secretary, and at a point in time as sole manager along with overseeing the completion of 15 audited financial statements; d) there had been a reversal of the entities fortune; e) the entity was well managed as reported to the Committee during its monthly meetings; and f) there was no defalcation.

  1. That your less than professional attitude has proven to be disruptive of the day-to-day operations of the Committee. By your own admission, you have clashed with almost every staff member of the … and, in …, for the protection of the operations of the entity and the Committee, the intervention of the Committee was required to manage a breakdown in the communication flow between yourself and the Internal Auditor, who had been deliberately excluded by you from the operational meetings, and thereby cut off from access to information crucial to the smooth running of the entity.

… I functioned as Human Resource Officer which required coaching and counselling staff members, ensuring their work targets were fair and their quarterly performance appraisals were completed in a timely fashion with an absent of rancour. My focus to remove the ‘passing of the buck’ mentality meant I clashed with most staff members but no one is indispensable so my plan was for a smooth succession which happened. Hence staff members worked in different sections of the entity, were supported via training and studies and in all instances encouraged to enhance their skills.

… Internal Auditors do not participate in operational activities which they audit.

Despite the debacle surrounding the ending of my tenure, I sought to maintain respect for my superiors by not voicing/showing their overt victimization. I am sure my actions disappointed my representative. It was not cowardice on my part but the reality that one might lose one’s sanity and money dealing with a clique that enjoyed bullying and revelled in the minutiae.

I was also bored with the matter, wanted and found new interest dealing with lawyers which is another story to tell.

2 thoughts on “The Frustration of Running a Government Entity

  1. Atherley: Will EBC be ready?

    OPPOSITION LEADER Bishop Joseph Atherley is questioning the timing of the November 11 byelection, as it will take place just a week after the current Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (EBC) five-year term expires.
    Speaking in the office of the Opposition at Worthing Court, Christ Church, yesterday, Atherley said he wanted to hear how ready a new commission could really be in such a short time.
    “I want to make a call for the chairman and/or members of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission to make a public statement or at least to interact with the political parties contesting the St George North by-election as to the readiness of the [political] machinery in Barbados for this upcoming byelection and indeed for the next General Election, which may be called between now and the constitutional due date,” he said.
    The leader of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PdP) said the life of the current commission would end on November 1 or 2, which meant a new commission, recommended by Government and the Opposition, would have about ten days to oversee the by-election, “which was suddenly called”, and then prepare for the next General Election.
    “I do not recall there ever being a time when two different commissions were charged with the responsibility of overseeing the processes around any election. One is demitting office and I think it would be good to hear from them,” he said.
    However, when contacted, Chief Electoral Officer Angela Taylor said she had no comment to make on the matter and referred all queries to John Haynes, chairman of the EBC.
    Haynes told the DAILY NATION the state of readiness of any commission should be spoken about by the supervisor of elections, who is Taylor.
    He referred to Section 41A (3) of the Constitution, which states: The chairman and two other members of the Commission shall be appointed by the Governor General, acting on the recommendation of the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, by instrument under the Public Seal, and the deputy chairman and one other member shall be appointed by the Governor General,
    acting on the recommendation of the Leader of the Opposition after consultation with the Prime Minister, by instrument under the Public Seal.
    “I cannot speak to the formation of any new commission. I guess the Prime Minister should have carefully considered all the [variables]. She is who issues the dates for everything, such as Nomination Day and Election Day,” Haynes said.
    Need for care
    Atherley said he did not want a repeat of the last General Election where there was much confusion and court matters up to Election Day, resulting in late ballot counting.
    “I do not know why the Prime Minister would have found it best judgement to call an election so early in the life of a new commission . . . and create [this] situation. I think when we are dealing with these important elements of our democratic practice, we must be as clear as possible to the parties involved and to the public.
    “Barbados has been very loud in offering its opinion on electoral matters elsewhere, so we need to be careful our people are as well informed as possible and our systems are functioning at the optimal level,” he said, adding that knowing the situation with the commission would help the PdP determine who to recommend to it.

    Source: Nation

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