Sat | Mar 25, 2023

Reassignment has cost me salary hikes – Bernard

Published:Tuesday | November 15, 2022 | 12:09 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter

In-limbo education ministry permanent secretary (PS) Dean-Roy Bernard testified on Monday that since his reassignment from his post in 2019, he has missed out on seven increments which would have bumped up his salary to almost $9 million.

Bernard, who was transferred from the ministry in February 2019 to the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service as director general, disclosed that when he was transferred, he was in the fourth point salary scale category and his pay was approximately $7.7 million.

The career public servant, who had challenged his reassignment, testified at Monday’s start of a Full Court hearing into Public Service Commission’s (PSC) decision to remove him that since his transfer, he has lost out on increments that would have carried his salary up to $8,905, 502.

He also indicated that since his reassignment, he has remained in the same position on the salary scale but that his benefit will be further affected by the new compensation review based on the calculation that will be done.

Prior to outlining how the reassignment has affected him financially, Bernard testified that in 2019 when Cabinet Secretary Douglas Saunders informed him of the reassignment via telephone, he was told that his pay would not be reduced although he would be relieved of his ministerial responsibilities.

According to Bernard, Saunders told him that he was acting on the instructions of the prime minister, who was doing some “shifting of permanent secretaries”.

He also told the court that since moving to the new post, he has not been assigned any portfolio or task.

“I actually wrote to the financial secretary raising the issue of me being assigned a portfolio, and I received no response,” he shared.

Attorney-at-law Louis Hacker from the Attorney General’s Office, who is representing the Services Commission, however, sought to discredit Bernard’s evidence.

Hacker suggested that the salary increases were purely discretionary, but Bernard firmly denied that claim. He also averred that Bernard has not provided any documentary evidence to prove that he had not received any salary increases since his move.

Hacker further suggested to Bernard that there was no truth to his report that Saunders told him that the prime minister had decided on the shake-up of permanent secretaries.

But Bernard said: “Those were his exact words.”

Hackers further suggested that Saunders did not inform Bernard that he was being reassigned to the finance ministry as director general.

“That is exactly what he told me,” Bernard said.

Meanwhile, Jacqueline Mendez, chief personnel officer at the Office of the Services Commission, also took the stand on Monday. Under cross-examination from Bernard’s lawyer Marc Williams, Mendez testified that she removed Bernard from a PS WhatsApp group after he was reassigned.

Mendez also told the court that she was aware that he had not been invited to the PS board meetings since.

Additionally, she testified that she is unaware of any post titled, PS- director general in the Civic Service Establishment Act.

Bernard, whose reassignment was done in the wake of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) scandal involving then Education Minister Ruel Reid, initiated legal action against the PSC and the attorney general, seeking, among other things, a stay of execution of the reassignment, a declaration of the move as unconstitutional and null, and a mandate to reverse the directive.

Among Bernard’s grounds for the claim were that the prime minister had no authority to recommend reassignment and that the commission had a duty to review the prime minister’s recommendation and that neither the Constitution nor the Staff Orders contemplated the forcible removal of a PS to a lower or other position in the public service.

The aggrieved public servant also contended that the director general is not a position on the establishment of the finance ministry and that the reassignment was done without reason and amounted to a demotion.

Saunders is to take the stand when the hearing resume today.

Faith Hall is also representing the attorney general.

Keith Bishop, Janoi Pinnock, and Roxanne Bailey appear for the Jamaica Civil Service Association, which is an interested party.