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Hiring practices in public sector under scrutiny

Published:Monday | July 30, 2018 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell/ Gleaner Writer

The Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica (HRMAJ) has weighed in on public debate about governance issues and hiring practices in the public sector.

On July 30, HRMAJ President Karl Williams wrote to the prime minister expressing "great concern" at the events unfolding at the state-run Petrojam.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Williams said he was "disappointed by some of what we have heard in relation to governance breakdowns at Petrojam ... ".

The letter commented on recruitment of executives in the public sector, including the human resources manager at Petrojam, Yolande Ramharrack.

At a meeting of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) in early July, Ramharrack admitted that the advertisement to which she responded for the position required applicants to have a master's degree in business administration, which she did not have when she applied for the job in February 2017.

The HRMAJ argued that the recruitment of executives, including the HR head at Petrojam, is a role of the chief executive officer, supported as required by the HR Committee of the board of directors.

"We note, however, that although it is not unusual for skilled external resources to support panel interviews in public-sector entities, the panel selection raises questions that must be definitively answered and must not leave doubts about whether there was a contrived arrangement to shoo-in a candidate," Williams contended.

The HRMAJ president main-tained that best-in-class HR practices require that recruitment and selection revolve around talent acquisition, development and retention as an objective, and that knowledge, skills and experience requirements, be properly documented and adhered to in selection.


Recruitment guidelines


Williams said it expects that recruitment guidelines would be approved by the board, and appropriate systems put in place by the CEO, to ensure transparency, as well as board review of executive leadership performance.

In his letter to Holness, the HRMAJ head noted that if there are concerns about the performance of the human resources manager at the state-run Petrojam, an objective assessment of her achievements should be done against the stipulated targets for which she was assigned.

"The HR manager's fit, like every other employee, must be now determined on the quality and effectiveness of her performance," Williams said.

Petrojam has been bedevilled by claims of corruption, nepotism and cronyism that have led to extensive investigations by the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, the Integrity Commission, and the Auditor General's Department.

Williams said he welcomes the establishment of a Strategic Review Committee, to be chaired by Christopher Zacca, as an important step in rectifying the many issues that have arisen.

The HRMAJ has offered its services and expertise to the prime minister and the Strategic Review Committee to ensure that Petrojam benefits from a broad sweep of HR professional experience in the review.