Mon | Nov 29, 2021

Why can’t public servants be terminated?

Published:Friday | October 15, 2021 | 12:07 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

It is puzzling that some persons employed in the public service, especially those in senior positions, seem to have some sort of tenure for life in their employment contracts.

It was shocking to learn that former Minister of Education Ruel Reid and former Caribbean Maritime University President Dr Fritz Pinnock have been receiving full salaries for over two years since their arrests for fraud.

At what point can a contract be terminated? If someone is arrested, isn’t there grounds for termination if they are unable to continue their contract, especially where there is a breach of trust? Even if one is presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law, unpaid leave should be an option for the short term, if he or she is unable to work.

The employer has the right to make a decision about the continuation of the contract, in the best interest of the organisation and their reputation. Why is government so different? Why can’t these individuals be paid whatever is due to them and be terminated?

The recent news about inappropriate expenditures at the Ministry of Education is yet another, in a series of news, reflecting poorly on Dr Grace McLean, Acting Permanent Secretary in this ministry. McLean was around during Ruel Reid’s term as minister, and questions were raised then about her role amid inadequate responses to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee of Parliament and the Auditor General.

Why does someone have to act temporarily in a position for as long as two years, and more? Isn’t this enough time to prove one’s competence?

McLean is now on leave, and we know this is paid leave. But why can’t she be fired and paid her dues, and if criminal charges are required, allow the police to do their jobs?

What is written in these contracts that make senior public servants untouchable? Is there fear of what they know? How long should the public continue to pay for government inefficiencies, as if there is no viable alternative?

It is equally frightening to think that inefficiencies of this magnitude could exist without the minister’s knowledge or concern!

P. CHIN