Political Leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Senator Nazim Burke has added his voice to reports circulating in the country over the controversial transfer of three top civil servants in the past week.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Sen. Burke said he is gravely concerned with continued reports of intimidation and bullying of public servants and the arbitrary, high-handed and vindictive manipulation of the public service by those now running the country.
The affected officers are said to be Head of the Pest Management Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture, Paul Graham, Senior Fisheries Officer, Justin Renee and Marine Protected Area (MPA) Officer, Ronald Baldeo.
Sen. Burke alluded to reports of a tense meeting that Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell had with staffers in the Ministry of Agriculture in which Graham had raised with him a very contentious issue.
Graham is said to have given the thumbs down to a request from a major private sector concern to import some foreign substance into the country but it was allegedly over-ruled by a certain member of the Political Directorate without any consultation.
In referring to the issue, Sen. Burke said he heard that “at a meeting with the staff at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries some weeks ago, in response to a professional concern that was raised by one of the senior officers there, Mr. Paul Graham, the Prime Minister (Dr. Mitchell) is reported to have been beating his chest and pounding on the desk in anger, claiming that he was in charge – much to the shock and surprise of all those in attendance”.
“The ministry staff could not believe that this reaction was coming from the Prime Minister of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique”, he remarked.
According to Burke, Congress has also been receiving reports that certain ministers of government are behaving in an almost similar manner.
He charged that these ministers “go around ministries, sometimes not even the ministries that they are responsible for, announcing that certain public servants have to go and demanding that Permanent Secretaries that are responsible get them out of here”.
“We are told that among the persons who were the target of these outbursts were Mr. Graham himself, Senior Fisheries Officer, Justin Renee and Marine Protected Area (MPA) Officer, Ronald Baldeo who were summarily transferred”, he said.
Sen. Burke also said he had picked up unconfirmed reports that “in the case of Mr. Renee and Mr. Baldeo, it has even been reported that police were sent to search their homes”.
The Congress leader pointed out that if this is true “it would mark a very serious departure from the norms of the service”, adding that “under our Constitution the Public Service is answerable to the Public Service Commission (PSC), not to any minister of Government”.
Sen. Burke stressed that “the responsibility to hire, transfer, discipline (public) workers all rest in the hands of the PSC and orders cannot be issued by Ministers, Department of Public Administration to punish, intimidate or threaten officers without first reporting any complaint to the PSC in respect to any particular worker”.
He cautioned those now running the country to understand that “to the extent that public workers are mistreated, abused or disrespected in any way it will affect the effectiveness with which they deliver services to the public-at-large and the general operation and efficiency of the bureaucracy and the country”.
The NDC leader called for an investigation to be launched into the alleged treatment being meted out to public workers by Government Ministers as it relates to bullying, intimidation, and threats, as well as the manner in which persons are being transferred to other departments of the public service.