Those 2017 arbitrary increases in wages and salaries of public servants (Part I)
A few weeks ago, I made a presentation on behalf of the Transparency Institute Guyana Inc. to the Organisation of American States that was conducting the fifth-round review of Guyana’s compliance with the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption. One aspect of my presentation relates to government hiring. I pointed out that it is inappropriate for the President of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) to also hold the position of Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC). The GPSU representative present, however, contended that the Constitution allows for two union representatives to be on the PSC and that the Chairman was elected by the other members.
Article 200 of the Constitution states that the PSC shall consist of six members who shall be appointed as follows:
(a) three members appointed by the President acting after meaningful consultation with the Leader of the Opposition;
(b) two members appointed by the President upon nomination by the National Assembly after it has consulted such bodies as appear to it to represent public officers or classes of public officers; and
(c) if the President deems fit, one member appointed by the President acting in accordance with his own deliberate judgment:
However, a person shall be disqualified for appointment as a member of the Commission if he is a public officer. The Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the Commission shall be elected by and from members of the Commission using such consensual mechanism as the Commission deems fit.
As can be noted, the National Assembly is only required to consult with the unions that represent public officers, and therefore it does not necessarily follow that its nominees must come from the trade union movement. In any event, a member of any such union sitting on the Commission faces a serious conflict of interest. Whose interest would such a person serve, that of the State or the public; or the interest of the membership of the concerned union? It is also not clear whether the Assembly was involved and whether such consultation took place. If it did, the decision to have two union representatives on the Commission is clearly against the norms of good governance. The fact that this was the practice of the previous Administration is no justification for its continuation.
It is relevant to note that one of the recommendations of Commission of Inquiry into the Public Service, established in August 2015, is that “the PSC should at all times be constituted with suitably qualified and competent persons of unquestioned integrity who would strive to be fair and impartial in the execution of their duty in consonance with the constitutional prescription that they exercise independent judgment and not be influenced by political and other external or extraneous considerations”.
Last week, the Government announced wages and salaries increases for public servants for the year 2017 retroactive from 1 January. The monthly minimum wage has been increased by 8% from $55,555 to $60,000. Prior to 2015, the minimum wage was $35,000. Therefore, over the three-year period of the Coalition Government, the minimum wage has increased by 71.4%, which is not unreasonable, considering the current state of the economy.