Is the public service in tatters, completely demoralized?

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Denys Springer is an educator and freelance writer trained in social sciences, labour studies and industrial relations, education, conflict, resolution, and mediation. Denys Springer lectures part-time at the Open Campus UWI in Saint Lucia on supervisory management – the psychology of management.

By Denys Springer

Based on a democratic and independent country handed over by colonial rulers, who liberally left us with a public service dominated by rules, regulations and separation of powers, however, the exploits of a Cabinet of ministers’ and members of parliament, now rule the roost, polluting the public service to their whims and fancy.

Writing this article, I feel a certain pain, sadness and disenchantment that the government of Saint Lucia used the public service contrary to national development; leaving it exposed to morals and values of confrontational principles, optional integrity and/or questionable leadership qualities.

A form of tin-pot dictatorship has emerged in our democracy, averse to the public service, citizens and residence of Saint Lucia.

E.M. Forster (1879-1970) wrote: “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend I hope I should have the guts to betray my country”. The government of Saint Lucia is certainly following in the footsteps of Forster because they only care for their Friends, Family and Foreigners (FFF), not the country, for the greater good.

There is no doubt in my mind that good governance depends on respect for the rights of all. That said, the government must respect the rights of able-bodied men and women accredited with the authority to give professional advice to elected officials.

Politicians come and go, oftentimes in hibernation useless to themselves, but the public service in our democracy is mandatory.

Many have remarked about the public service of Saint Lucia is on a downward spiral – bureaucratic, inefficient, colour coded – distant from what is required to transact public policy in a modern era. To put it bluntly, since the Allen Chastanet-led administration took office, the level of nepotism is unprecedented. It does not mean that things were perfect before, but the prominence has taken a higher level that is brutish and unbelievable. Clearly visible is affirmative action and victimization in various ministries of government, unparalleled and unprecedented. Leading to a nightmare for true professionals in the service.

It is alleged that political functionaries have been appointed to key positions above career public servants, who have invested heavily in acquiring academic competence. Others have put-in the time with years of brain power and experience, building capacity.

I am of the view that the inept government of Saint Lucia, fundamentally came to light with COVID-19, exposing the prime ministers’ management qualities – ‘the propagation of lies and nepotism’. There are those in the public service who would have aided and abet government in its secrecy, wittingly or unwittingly, with political motives, knowledgeable of the economy.

Arguably, the public service commission has lost the respect known and have unexpectedly become a rubber stamp for the Chastanet-led administration.

Permanent secretaries seem to have exchanged their soul in favour of appointments and promotions, are reportedly under the direction of ministers of government. Similar, ministers function as human resource personnel, hiring [permanent secretaries] down to cleaning technicians at the office. The preferred qualification is political affiliation, in compliance with ‘the propagation of lies and nepotism’.

At this juncture, the public service is saddled with persons at senior management positions who have no business being there. Square pegs in round holes, inclusive of a Cabinet of ministers, the direct result of Saint Lucia’s mismanagement and free fall. The bigotry of lower expectation.

The public service provides a regulatory framework within which the private sector operates, incentives, legislate and execute policy. If these are not efficient and fairly administered, the public sector becomes a dysfunctional apparatus, operating as an extension of the political enclave. The obvious is present.

The public service, government administration and governance require a configuration of success that comprise ministerial portfolios based on synergies geared towards economic, social development, foreign policy with an emphasis on national development. This would lay the basis for a highly-skilled public service that knows its place alongside policymakers and technical personnel with the latitude to execute designated results.

The government of Saint Lucian is using the cover of COVID-19 and global uncertainty to exploit the public service to suite their friends and family and foreign benefactors, bundled with abstract and unhealthy policy formulation. The consequence of a malicious government is underwhelming throughout the public service; the social, health and economic status of the country.

In closing, I turn to R.A. Butler who espoused that the public service is a bit like a Rolls Royce – you know it’s the best machine in the world, but you’re not quite sure what to do with it.

Saint Lucian needs a trained driver, an accredited leader that is rational and capable to speak unambiguous. A leader with the capacity to formulate decision-making from the basis of fact, science and truth.

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