Citizens obey the law for three major reasons: to avoid legal consequences, out of respect for authority and because it is the morally right thing to do. However, when systems fail, persons sometimes attempt to administer the law with disastrous consequences.
Recently in Aurora, Illinois, USA an employee who was being or had just been fired from his job resorted to gunning down some of his fellow employees. When the situation cleared up a bit six people including the fired employee were dead and several other persons including some police officers injured.
Fortunately, Grenadians do not generally resort to such extremes to resolve disputes, being as is sometimes felt a docile and compliant people waiting on the Lord to settle most of our troubles. But does this give our Government the mandate to abuse its citizens to the point that some may go overboard and break the law. The government is mandated to govern the country and the citizens are expected to be law-abiding.
Whilst the citizenry is generally held to account for breaking the law, our Government is generally not held accountable for its actions. Is it that our docile and compliant nature is giving them reason to try and circumvent the very laws they have put in place?
We have seen our Government on many occasions resort to unconstitutional actions against the citizens especially against public officers in the areas of appointments, transfers, termination of appointment and withholding of salaries.
Society has failed to and, in some instances, have sided with Government in the breaking of the law. Our Government is now emboldened and has taken its disregard for the constitution, laws and the citizens to the highest level.
As an example, the laws pertaining to severance and compensation to public officers are straight forward and must be adhered to by the Government. Severance/Compensation payments by law is a one-time payment in its totality. It is a liability which the Government has incurred and should be paid off in the fiscal year in which it incurred failing which the Government is in fact borrowing from the person to whom the payoff is due.
So why is the Government after removing the former Secretary to Cabinet from its payroll in August 2018 in a manner not in keeping with the Public Finance Management Act is now seeking to have her returned to its payroll to be paid a miserly quarterly sum until she attains the compulsory retirement age?
The Court of Appeal judgment of September 22, 2017 indicated that the Lady was unconstitutionally removed from the public service. Since section 84(8) of the Constitution did not apply she could not have been retired and just paid her retirement benefits as was done with previous public officers. The judgment meant that she had to be paid all her emoluments and entitlements up to the age of compulsory retirement to be followed by her retirement benefits.
It is my understanding, which the Government can confirm or deny, that having removed the former senior officer from its payroll since August of 2018, without considering where would be her source of income to meet financial obligations, it is now through the Ministry of Finance proposing to pay the compensation package in quarterly instalments commencing March 2019 and until her sixtieth birthday.
From my assessment of the developments, the authority for the payments to the former Secretary to Cabinet is a letter from the Chief Personnel Officer dated November 7, 2018. At the time that letter was delivered to the former senior public officer it should have been accompanied with the payment of her terminal benefits and followed immediately by her removal from the Government payroll. This would have completely severed her from the public service and would have been consistent with the Court of Appeal ruling.
Government’s proposal is now seeking to return the former senior officer to the public service on its payroll after she was unconstitutionally removed from it some seven months ago. Has the Government, as the constitutional authority for seeking the welfare of all the citizens, given thought to how the now unemployed former public officer has been meeting her financial commitment for the past seven months? And to make bad matters worst has made such an unbecoming proposal to the senior public officer.
It is true that the IMF has dictated to the Government to pay its outstanding judgment debts? Compensation is to be paid in a lump sum, however, instalments can be agreed upon between the parties.
Discussions on an instalment plan should consider the needs of the recipient and must include penalty interest on the remaining balance. Such instalments should be paid within a reasonable time and, from my assessment, it is obvious that this proposal from Government cannot constitute reasonable timing.
Government should not continue to take advantage of its citizens. There will be a time of reckoning for all the actors and supporters of this kind of reckless behaviour to our citizens. Lawbreakers would ultimately be caught up with and made to account but in the meantime how many more lives will be destroyed?
Concerned Public Servant