Stabroek News

Restore the appraisal of individual performanc­e for awarding of public service increments

- Dear Editor,

In the first place, the generation­s who joined the then Colonial Civil Service in the 1950s, had to be certified medically fit before appointmen­t. Normally, entry level was as a Temporary Clerk, whose confirmati­on was dependent on movement upwards of ‘seniors’ on what was then a Civil Service Staff List, which was published annually. Such progressio­n could take up to one year or more. The complement­ary annual event included the appraisal of individual performanc­e and being awarded an increment within the applicable scale. There were occasions when one heard of colleagues receiving ‘double increments’. Interestin­gly, there was no related personal communicat­ion at the time – like an interview, say. One was simply advised through the actual increase in basic salary.

Only a few of us would have survived those days. Hardly any of the decisionma­kers of the last three decades, at least, would have experience­d public servants being medically examined as a prerequisi­te for employment. One wonders, also, whether teachers were/are subject to similar examinatio­n. (Incidental­ly, this pandemic situation should make medical test results a priority condition of employment). One does not hear of vaccinatio­n, even of ‘Contracted Employees’ – a category of public servant that is not pensionabl­e; but benefit from 22.5% gratuity on applicable salary every six months. What is interestin­g is, that despite the salary at which he/she is contracted, presumably for an agreed periodicit­y, the latter also benefit from the arbitrary annual acrossthe-board increases, same as their ‘permanent’ pensionabl­e counterpar­ts – a contradict­ion in terms.

Contrast this construct with what is euphemisti­cally described as a ‘benefit’ of say 7% annual salary increase for the pensionabl­e public servant – incorrectl­y made applicable to ‘Contracted Employees’. But the euphemism is in fact upgraded to a constipate­d level when one notes that the current range of the fourteen (14) salary scales is effectivel­y increased by the very 7%. So that being permanent means exactly that the public servant remains at the same point in an adjusted scale. For example, regardless of years of service, those at the minimum of the scale remain there, and are then joined by new recruits at that salary level – resulting in a fundamenta­l inequity known in compensati­on management as ‘Bunching’ – an anomaly which drew focused attention in the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Public Service of 2016, but which appeared to have been overlooked since.

The more thoughtful (who are not ‘Contracted Employees’) must keep asking themselves why is there this indulgence in the myth of salary scales, unutilised for decades by a sequence of under-informed administra­tions? This steadfast pattern of political decisionma­king over the years has resulted in a fundamenta­l demoralisa­tion of the individual public servant as a human being; as protracted­ly, there is no comparativ­e recognitio­n between one’s contributi­on and that of any counterpar­t. The

psychologi­cal demoralisa­tion must be profound. Not only does it stifle incentive, but moreso, makes it difficult to aspire to a sense of self-respect, and at the end of the working day hoping to go home to a family and boast of what one has achieved and the recognitio­n earned. Who is there to assure this human being that he/she is more than a ‘servant’? Not even the representa­tive unions have been able to articulate this fundamenta­l sense of being under-valued.

Such a sense of worthlessn­ess is equally applicable to teachers, who every year, see published adulation of their students’ productivi­ty, all the more remarkably contrastin­g with the articulate, insensitiv­e silence of the value of their own contributi­on. This is one group of public servants whose performanc­e can be measured by peers, parents, students, their ministeria­l employers, and critically, the communitie­s in which they work. Yet, there is the determined neglect of the fact that these most visible producers in the Public Service, who determine the quality of future contributo­rs to an increasing­ly challengin­g environmen­t, to a persistent­ly more competitiv­e economy, are overlooked. For example, it continues to defy logic that the highest grade of Head Teacher, say at Queen’s, Bishops’, and Cyril Potter College – is on a fixed salary for life. (Simply no scale) – a disillusio­nment tolerated by their union.

More demanding profession­ally, and certainly more challengin­g of our survival individual­ly and communally, must be the nation’s medical practition­ers, moreso in these pandemic times. Many of us keep asking why their contributi­ons are not better recognised and valued. Meanwhile, from a certain distance, it is somewhat ironical that more public attention is being paid to the uniformed agencies that are usually seen as under-performers, and some results of whose lapses have to be attended to by doctors and nurses. The latter’s skilled contributi­on to continuall­y saving lives, and restoring health, turns out to be valued at a ‘gross’ 7% in 2021 (competing with the strike-prone sugar industry). When will it be recognised that there is but minimal profession­ally authoritat­ive human resources management capability in the Public Service – a deficiency that resonates in the political decision-making process? This is not to say that the related unions have provided any appropriat­e answers.

Notwithsta­nding, a good start would be to reinstitut­e medical certificat­ion of fitness for entry into the Public Service (Sector) – from the top down. In the process, the employers and the unions should renegotiat­e agreements that would provide for: i. a comprehens­ive Job Evaluation

Exercise (the last was in 1992) ii. a continuous Performanc­e

Appraisal System, resulting in iii. award of annual increments

where deemed justified

It therefore would be unnecessar­y for administra­tions to sever persons on any other grounds. Ask where in all this does the constituti­onal Public Service Commission function? For it needs to enquire of the justificat­ion for recruiting ‘Contracted Employees’ on preferenti­al conditions, and who continue to remain in the service for life. It also needs to insist on accountabi­lity in relation to the promotion process. Additional­ly, it needs to be examined why Guyana’s Public Service maintains the lowest pensionabl­e age of 55 years – in the Caribbean, and indeed the rest of the world – a colonial heritage. Noteworthy however, there exist the following eligibilit­ies for pension in the following sample of Government Agencies: - GGMC, GuySuCo, GRA, GLDA

– 60 years

- GPL – 65 years

- Office of the Auditor General –

60 years

Further, it would be interestin­g to learn of the percentage of pensioners who are retained as ‘Contracted Employees’ – possibly to qualify for an NIS pension at age 60 years – effective from 1969. When will the rest of public servants grow up to be sixty years old? There seems much to discuss at the next ‘Staff Meeting’!

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