Leaderless brigade - Persons being given short-term acting stints in almost all top posts in the critical fire service
The Jamaica Fire Brigade is short a commissioner, two deputy commissioners, with several other top positions also vacant.
The Sunday Gleaner has confirmed that the fire brigade is also short of a director of the human resource department and a director of the personnel department.
According to Sunday Gleaner sources, since Commissioner Raymond Spencer retired in June, persons have been placed to act in the senior posts but are rotated regularly, leaving the fire brigade in a funk, as there is no continuity in policy.
"I have no idea what is happening. I thought by now we would have had a commissioner. Nobody knows what is happening," said one firefighter who asked not to be named.
"It is affecting the processes and nothing is happening. When one person starts to act and a few months later another starts acting, that can't be good for any organisation. Persons are not following up on what others have been doing unless it's something that they cannot avoid following up on," added the firefighter.
Efforts to get a comment from Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie, who has responsibility for the fire brigade, were unsuccessful last week but Sean Martin, chief fire prevention officer, who is acting as the deputy commissioner of administration, confirmed the vacancies.
"We are taking steps as we speak now to fill some of the positions. One of the things that would have caused some of the acting is a lot of persons would have gone on retirement in recent times.
"Our commissioner recently went on retirement, so you will find that there is somebody acting for him and there is somebody acting for that person who is acting for him. So you find that once that position is filled, some of the acting below will also be filled, because those positions will become vacant and some of them will be filled," said Martin.
The appointment of a commissioner is the responsibility of the fire brigade's board of directors, which is led by Russell Hadeed.
He told The Sunday Gleaner that the board is now doing the shortlisting of applicants for the post of commissioner and interviews should begin in a few weeks.
"This is a difficult position to fill. It is like you are searching for a police commissioner," argued Hadeed, who downplayed the concerns about the frequent movement of persons who have been placed to act in the positions.
"It has been a situation of moving people around, giving them experience and building capacity. What has happened is that over the years, persons have just moved up the ranks and there was no succession planning.
"Now we are giving people the chance to show what they can do, and we are seeing persons with potential. But there is no issue with the supervision of the ranks," Hadeed declared, as he sought to allay fears that the absence of permanent leaders would impact the quality of service offered by the fire brigade.