Wrong message to young professionals
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Permit me to comment on the non-appointment of Mr Mukulu to the Office of Public Defender and the reasons so far posited for his lack of suitability.
According to what I have read, Mr Mukulu's experience and age were singled out as factors that ruled him out of the post in which he has been acting, and one could also say understudied for, as deputy public defender. The role of the Public Service Commission (PSC) is to recommend to the governor general, persons for appointment where those functions have not been delegated by the governor general so one can easily deduce that the commission did its duty under the Public Service Regulations.
In this instance, it also appears that the previous public defender also came to the profound realisation that Mr Mukulu was young and inexperienced, thus disqualified for not only appointment but for acting as public defender, in which it is reportedly described by Mr Witter as an egregious error on his part.
The public sector is filled with young, talented professionals who aspire to greater office and have invested the time to learn as much as possible to function effectively in those offices. The message that has been repeatedly sent by the PSC is that age (which some equate with experience) disqualifies persons for higher office. The challenge it seems in this matter is that the commission actually committed this to writing. This sends the wrong message to young professionals. It seems to say that if you are not near retirement you cannot get an office that comes with a security of tenure.
Mr Mukulu can reasonably be expected to be aggrieved by this assertion of lack of experience (due to age?) when we as a public have evidence of the work that has been done since taking the reins of that office, and the number of cases that have been aggressively closed by that office since he took over as contradictory to the assertion of lack of competence in the role of Public Defender on the basis of inexperience (due to age?). In fact, Mr Mukulu, it appears from the reports, would have demonstrated competence in the role and some weighting should have been given to this in the selection process. One could reasonably ask the question of age discrimination, albeit not covered under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.
The fundamental question of security of tenure and its relationship to age is also something of interest as it is being suggested that only people beyond a certain age should have security of tenure without, it seems, an examination as to why security of tenure is important for certain positions, particularly as it relates to political interference. A look at the current auditor general, Mrs Pamela Monroe Ellis, seems to contradict that there should be a linear relationship between age and tenure, as suggested by the reports attributed to Mr Witter.
If we are to build a meritocracy in the public sector, we have to develop positions that don't appear as base as what seems to have transpired in this case. Too many dedicated public officers have been bypassed on the grounds of lack of experience (due to age?) and so we lose the energy and innovation that bright, young minds bring and wonder why things don't change.
The PSC needs to examine its standards that it is now using to determine who the best candidates for positions are and to ensure that it makes selections on a transparent basis that somehow aligns itself to experience, performance and merit, and not merely age. It should have spoken to Mrs Arlene Harrison Henry as the better candidate and expounded on her experience relevant to the Office of Public Defender in comparison to Mr Mukulu's experience and remove any reference to age which, if it was such a determining factor, should have ruled him out of contention from the outset.
Jamaica Civil Service Association