Fri | Jun 18, 2021

Letter of the Day | Knowledge gap between gov’t and the public service

Published:Thursday | August 1, 2019 | 12:00 AM


The Westminster system of governance is basically built on a few key relationships: the government is formed by the party that can retain a majority in Parliament; Cabinet is collective; ministers are responsible to the Parliament and must answer for their actions; ministers are assisted by a public service that has expertise, continuity and both the preparedness and the ability to serve whomever the people elect to govern.

In Jamaica, there appears to be a knowledge gap between ministers and the public service. The use of government-approved credit cards is one such case. Earlier this year, the by-election date in Portland Eastern was adjusted to a later date because those who advised the prime minister forgot that a public holiday was included between the time of announcement and the then selected date of the by-election. We have also witnessed one year when Labour Day fell on a Saturday, but was observed on the following Monday, while it was only in law that a public holiday is celebrated on a Monday when it originally falls on a Sunday.

Apparently, there is a disconnect between an opposition (People’s National Party) that having spent more time forming the government, to have forgotten what they did while in administration, and a government (Jamaica Labour Party), that appears unable to recall anything that was done. And while the Constitution has become a common appeal, the opposition seemed unaware that public states of emergency cannot be approved without their own participation.

Too many persons who hold public offices are ignorant of the Constitution, and the stability that is expected in the public service has been undermined by the appointment of political hacks that have no knowledge of the mechanism of the civil service.

The high levels of corruption in the ministries of energy and education are rooted in very poor leadership, not only by the ministers who were in charge, but also within the public service who failed to put Jamaica first. Governments will always be voted out, but it’s the public service that keeps this nation in stability, expertise and continuity.

Dudley C. McLean II

Mandeville, Manchester