must be a sobering thought to the critic of the Public Service that the
frequency of change of political Governments that has characterised Italy
in the post-war period had not impaired the underlying growth forces in
that economy and it was the Public Service which kept that ship of State
lecture by the late Frank Rampersad, economist, former PS in the Ministry
of Finance, speaking on July 28, 1998 to public service management
trainees echoes with extraordinary prescience today.
18/18 tie or not, Parliament or not, Speaker or not, unpaid Ministers or
not, an absence of an Opposition Leader or not, tough times ahead or not,
the country is running isn’t it? I asked anxiously of two top senior
civil servants this week echoing the questions on many citizens minds.
following is an edited version of interviews with two senior civil
servants who spoke on the condition of remaining anonymous.
Civil Servant 1:
very bureaucracy that is so often criticised is what protects us from
chaos in these politically troubled times.
roles of each Ministry, department, and each officer is clearly defined.
All members of the 65,000 Public Service, including the 35,000 civil
service officers, 15,000 teachers, the 10,000 members of the protective
services-prisons, fire, police, the judicial and legal service - the state
counsels, and solicitors in the ministry of Legal Affairs, are on duty.
Customs, Immigration nurses, doctors, Inland Revenue, air traffic
controllers, met officers without whom the planes can’t take off, are
continuing to provide essential services which allow the country to run.
all serve the public in the context of legislation, rules and fixed
policy. Law and order is in place. The Police Commissioner is working
within the confines of clearly defined law, and anyone in breach of that
will have to take the consequences of that.
servants recognise that a Government is in place, and it’s business as
usual. We continue to take directives from Cabinet.”
Civil Servant 2:
the day of the election on December 10 to 24 of December when the new
Prime Minister was sworn in, the country was run, from solid waste
disposal, to mail delivery to health so seamlessly, the public was not
even aware of the systems, procedures, and bureaucracy it takes to do it.
This did not happen by chance.
Permanent Secretaries (PS’s) were prepared weeks before the elections
with three plans: Plan A: Same Government. Plan B: New Government, and
Plan C: A coalition Government.
plan B in hand, the PS’s met with Prime Minister Manning, the then
Leader of the Opposition for transition training in early December, a week
before the election with the then Prime Minister Panday’s knowledge and
didn’t know the names of Ministers, but were told of how many Ministries
were to be created and what they were to be named. We worked round the
clock to ensure that the minute the new Ministers walked into Whitehall,
they had offices and Permanent Secretaries assigned to them. I’m very
proud of the Public Service and especially the Permanent Secretaries. We
are consummate professionals, politically sensitive, not partisan.”
Civil Servant 1:
can replace a stable Government. Without that we are faced with severe
limitations. We can only go on as long as funding holds out. The proposed
measures of giving public servants one months salary in advance and the
$1000 pensions will mean approved financial allocations will run out long
before September, the end of the fiscal year.
not convening will mean no new legislation will be enacted, no budgetary
reallocations can take place, so even those in new Ministries will be paid
out of the pockets of the old ones. There are budgetary allocations for 16
ministries and now we have 24.
one can understand that various administrations have their own ideas as to
how to run the country, public officers lives, especially those who are
shifted around ministries are disrupted, their assignments uncertain and
the PSA is worried if they will get paid at all.
change in policy, however beneficial it may initially appear to be, is
disruptive and often counterproductive. One example is the negotiations
over the arrears of increments owed to public servants amounting to
millions of dollars. It will have to be revisited by a new Ministerial
committee and the delay could create resentment with public officers and
something has to be done in getting the parliament convened and if both
parties say they have the interests of the country at heart they should
set aside personal agendas and address the bigger issue of the national
would be operating in a very incomplete system without a Parliament.
a situation where the Presidents term ends in March to a non-functioning
Parliament, and where the money will run out, we have no choice but to go
back to the polls or fragment into bits. In the meantime, hats off, deep
bow, to the Public Service for providing us with interim stability.”