Absence of service commissions delaying vital appointments
Contributing to teacher exodus By Patrick Denny

Stabroek News
October 28, 2002

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The absence of the Constitutional Service Commissions means that for over a year there have been no appointments or promotions in the Public Service, the Police Force or the Teaching Service or appointments to the judiciary and magistracy.

Also, save for those disciplinary matters delegated to Permanent Secretaries and heads of departments by the Public Service Commission (PSC) and to the Commissioner of Police by the Police Service Commission, disciplinary action against public servants and police officers above the rank of Inspectors cannot be proceeded with.

In the case of teachers, according to a source close to the Teaching Service Com-mission (TSC), only the Commission can discipline them and this has led to a breakdown of discipline in some schools as headmasters and education officials are forced to curb their zeal to enforce discipline.

The service commissions are casualties of the political impasse between the PPP/C government and the parliamentary opposition. The impasse is over the composition of the four sector committees and the representation of the governing and opposition parties on the parliamentary management committees.

The recent constitutional amendments, among other changes, created four parliamentary sector committees and the appointive committee. The appointive committee is required to consult on behalf of the National Assembly with the interested groups to be represented on the various service commissions. Before the amendments, the President consulted directly with these groups.

The St Lucia Statement signed by leaders of the PPP/C and PNC/R in July 1998 provided for the establishment of the parliamentary management committee which President Bharrat Jagdeo and PNC/R leader Desmond Hoyte agreed to establish before the latter suspended the dialogue process.

Previous efforts to discuss the establishment of this committee during the Herdmanston Accord dialogue process were abandoned as the PPP/C insisted that it was a matter for parliament.

Stabroek News has confirmed that despite the absence of the Commissions, the payment of the superannuation benefit to persons who have reached retirement age has not been affected.

Sources close to these Commissions tell Stabroek News that the law provides for these persons to stop work at the prescribed retirement age, and to delay the payment would be to breach the law. As a consequence the secretaries of the Commissions have been authorising the payments once the heads of the departments have provided the requisite certificates. An official of the Auditor General's Office confirmed that the signatures of the permanent secretaries are being accepted in order to ensure compliance with the law.

In the absence of the Public Service Commission, Stabroek News understands that the Permanent Secretaries have been authorising the payment of the relevant allowance to those officers who are performing their duties in positions higher than their substantive posts.

Meanwhile the lack of opportunities for promotion in the absence of the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) has aggravated the exodus of teachers from the nation's schools, sources close to the TSC tell Stabroek News. They explained that the schools were already being stripped of the trained and experienced teachers as a result of the aggressive recruitment drives on behalf of agencies in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, The Bahamas, Bermuda and St Lucia among others.

As a consequence the lack of promotional opportunities is the last straw for those teachers who were prepared to remain despite the lure of greener pastures overseas. On average, teachers who were receiving a mere $22,000 a month in Guyana here can earn at a minimum US$1400 ($276,000) a month overseas.

The sources point out that the delay could have a negative effect on the pensions of those teachers nearing retirement age whose pensions could have been boosted if they were able to end their career in a higher grade.

Another impact was that in some regions the schools are understaffed as because no appointments could be made the regional administrations are content to have the vacancies so that their expenditure could remain within the budgetary limit.

Also too, the sources say that it is affecting the quality of teachers staffing the hinterland schools, pointing out that in the absence of the Commission no incentive could be offered to teachers from the coast to serve in the hinterland. They say that a scheme, which offers points for promotion in return for service in the hinterland, which was to come into effect from January 1, will not now come into force until the Commission is constituted.

In terms of the Judicial Service Commission, Chancellor of the Judiciary, Desiree Bernard conceded that she, the Chief Justice and the President's nominee could form a quorum and so meet and discharge its functions. But she pointed out that she and the Chief Justice are ex-officio members of the Commission and prudence dictates that there should be the widest participation in the appointment of judges and magistrates.

Bryn Pollard, the representative of the Guyana Bar Association on the last Commission agrees, telling Stabroek News that the commission ought not to be convened until it is fully constituted. He said that the Commission should not make appointments particularly in the absence of a representative from the Bar Association

The other members of the JSC are the Chairman of the Public Service Commission and the representative of the Bar Association. The Chairman of the PSC is elected by a consensual mechanism by the members of the commission, two of whom are nominated by the National Assembly and three after meaningful consultations between the President and the Leader of the Opposition along with one other whom, if the President deems fit, he could nominate in his own deliberate judgment. In the absence of the JSC, there can be no new appointments of sorely needed judges and magistrates as moves intensify to improve the administration of justice.