Tue | Jan 17, 2017

Holness to rightsize public sector

Published:Friday | January 6, 2017 | 12:51 AMEdmond Campbell
Maria Thompson-Walters is all smiles with Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday at the Office of the Prime Minister. She has been appointed to head the Public Sector Transformation team.

Indicating that he has the political will to implement the long-awaited public-sector transformation exercise, including job cuts, Andrew Holness, the head of the Government, yesterday announced some far-reaching measures to overhaul the public sector, a move that union leaders say comes as no surprise.

The administration says that it has crafted a road map for public-sector transformation to include the centralisation of human resource services, which will be implemented by the end of August 2017.

The transformation process, with specific deadlines, forms part of Jamaica’s latest agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

Addressing heads of public-sector agencies and permanent secretaries at Jamaica House yesterday, Holness said that the transformation process in the past suffered from political expediency.

With the overall modernisation plan aimed at phasing in mergers, outsourcing, divestment, and closure of some entities, Holness made it clear that departments of agencies would be merged where there were overlaps in services.

“Public-sector entities will be closed where the entity has reached its sunset. For instance, there are a number of dormant companies owned by the Government of Jamaica that absorb resources,” Holness asserted.

JOB DISPLACEMENTS

As part of the Government’s drive to achieve a leaner and more efficient public service, some entities will be outsourced or divested where the Government is of the view that the private sector can deliver the service more effectively.

“As these mergers and closures occur, and as shared services are implemented, there will inevitably be job displacements but also opportunities for growth. A more efficient government that delivers more with less will support growth, and users will benefit from a higher quality of service delivery,” the prime minister outlined.

Holness yesterday charged the Development Bank of Jamaica to speed up the pace of divestment this year.

Another pivotal development is the review of all existing public bodies with a view to reintegrating some of these entities into parent ministries.

Discrepancy in pay scales for the performance of similar jobs in ministries, departments, and agencies will also be addressed in the transformation exercise. The Government says that there are plans to rationalise the plethora of pay scales and grades in the public sector. According to the prime minister, there are approximately 100 grades and scales across the public sector which creates confusion, inequity, and opportunities for arbitrage.

However, Holness was at pains to point out that the objective of the Government’s public-sector transformation is not to cut jobs. “Public-sector employees displaced by transformation activities will have the opportunity to benefit from a programme of training and outplacement services. All of this is expected to occur in an environment of private sector-led growth,” he said.

The prime minister appointed the Public Sector Transformation team, which is headed by Maria Thompson-Walters.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.