Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has defended the decision of the government-controlled Public Service Commission (PSC) to issue transfer letters to four public officers attached to the Customs Department within the Ministry of Finance.
Speaking in Parliament last week Wednesday, Dr. Mitchell said that the decision by government to transfer the public servants from one position to another within the public service has nothing to do with victimisation.
He made specific reference to the four Customs officers including the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Public Workers Union (PWU), Brian Grimes to the Department of Co-operatives.
The Prime Minister referred to a circulated WhatsApp message which he said, inferred that the transfer of the four officers was another act of victimisation by the ruling New National Party (NNP) Government, as it stated, “NNP strikes again…”
“What they did not say is that one of the persons who have been transferred is the son of a Minister of Government. So, the NNP is victimising the son of a Minister of Government? (Minister Oliver Joseph). That is significant, but they wouldn’t say that, they will not say that”, he told Parliament.
Public sector union sources told THE NEW TODAY that the transfer of Sheldon Joseph, son of the senior Cabinet Minister is being viewed as a promotion to a higher grade in the service.
One knowledgeable public officer indicated that Joseph is in a particular Grade in Customs and the department he is being transferred to does not have a position with such a Grade as that in which he left Customs.
“I am happy for Sheldon because he is a good worker. They will not tell you that he will be getting a promotion as they have to find a Grade to put him in and it cannot be a Grade lower than what he had in Customs”, he said.
Prime Minister Mitchell told Parliament that some public officers are not happy to leave one place of employment to go to another within the service even on promotion with a higher salary because “the juice” is flowing at the current work place.
He said: “If you promote them, they don’t want to move. Why? I know some cases you feel somebody is doing a good job, you say well look, you need to go and help there, ‘I am not going’.
Why you do not want to go? I only could conclude one thing Mr. Speaker…the juice flowing.”
The Prime Minister charged that there are persons working in the public service who believe that they should not be moved from the position which they occupy and blamed past leaders including himself for the development of this kind of thinking.
“If the government wants to move the Governor General, the Prime Minister recommends to the Queen to move the Governor General…If the people want to move the Prime Minister the people vote him out.
“Mr. Speaker, there (are) some of us in this country (who believe) that a job that we have as a public servant cannot be touched…it cannot be moved.
“So, anybody else could be moved but we cannot be moved -not fired, not disciplined and I am saying this Mr. Speaker because it is something that I have been talking about for a while, not now. I think we have created it – those of us who have led this country have created that atmosphere.
Dr. Mitchell again warned that keeping anyone too long in a position in the public service is proving too problematic.
He said these people begin to feel “this job is theirs and if you move them, even if you promote them, then you victimise them”.
“I don’t understand this mindset Mr. Speaker”, he added.
Prime Minister Mitchell who has often faced criticisms of victimising public officers perceived to be supporters of his rivals in the Congress party sought to defend his government’s track record on transfers within the public service.
He was adamant that in recent years no one can say that “we have made decisions based on any political perception’.
“It should not be perceived that you are being victimised in any sense of the word because this government has shown Mr. Speaker, we are not a perfect government – this government has made many mistakes in the past but nobody can say that in this period of governance in the last ten years or so that we have made decisions based on any political perception or politics.
“It seems to me, if you’re doing so well in a job, you should be very happy to move to another area higher to provide service in an area that’s not doing well.
“We’ve seen the government recommendation for Permanent Secretaries for the last period since general elections, no one can say, if anything else, people began wondering about the decisions but we are convinced that people have a right, whether they vote for you or not, to (give) service to the country and we have a responsibility to give them an opportunity to do so.”
Dr Mitchell pledged that after leaving government, he will become a strong activist in advising succeeding governments to make sure that people do not remain in one position for too long, “especially when certain things, juice may be flowing and therefore you have to protect them.”
This, he said is necessary in particular positions where “they may be extremely good but you leave them there too long, the best of us, anyone of us may find ourselves in difficulties because people can in fact be tempted.”
In recent years, there have been few cases of public officers being charged with corruption except for some police officers.