BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, APRIL 11th, 2016 (PRESS SEC) – Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, accompanied by Cabinet Secretary and former Head of the Public and Police Service Commissions, Mrs. Josephine Huggins, is leading a series of meetings as part of the Government’s ongoing efforts to communicate clear expectations to its staff, improve employee engagement and workplace relationships, and ensure sustainable performance in the public sector.
Prime Minister Harris said during meetings on Thursday and Friday that a few departments are grappling with employee absenteeism, tardiness, and misuse of vehicles for non-government purposes. Dr. Harris encouraged department managers to confront these problems head on by taking corrective measures rather than a) covering them up and enabling their subordinates to continue the inappropriate behaviours or b) trying to compensate for the inappropriate behaviours by requesting additional staff and other resources from the Ministry of Finance.
“The tendency is to make demands to the Ministry of Finance for additional resources,” the Prime Minister said, adding, “You want more so that people end up doing less. That is the challenge that every department head must face. What is it that you are asking for? Do you want more or do you want better people? Do you want more because who are there are not performing properly and you are not taking the corrective action? Sometimes because Jack is not performing, you have to add Jane and Tom to get the work done. Our expectation is that we always try to get more and better out of those we have through training, discipline, warning, etc.”
In certain cases, the most appropriate corrective measure would entail involving the Public Service Commission. The commission once led by Mrs. Josephine Huggins, now the Cabinet Secretary, is responsible for the appointment, discipline and removal of public officers.
On Friday, in response to a query from a senior officer in the Accountant General’s Office about what action should flow when an officer has been discovered to be short-changing revenue collections, the Prime Minister said, inter alia, that “Certainly, people who are being dishonest [in the collection of government revenues, for instance] ought not to remain where they are vulnerable. In any event, one of the first options should be that the person is asked to take leave pending a determination by the Public Service Commission. That has been the action which the Permanent Secretaries have recommended in those cases of which I am aware.”
Prime Minister Harris continued: “The Government expects that all employees will be loyal in the execution of their duties. The Government expects that all employees will be confidential in their handling and use of government information. Therefore, we will hold all accountable where there is any breach in these expectations.”
The Prime Minister added, “We expect that those who are leading the various departments will be able to account for the actions of those who are subordinate to them. We certainly will not retreat from these expectations because they are critical to the proper functioning of the organization.”
Prime Minister Harris said civil service professionals ought to maintain high professional standards. Doing so includes efficiently utilizing the resources they have at their disposal, he added.
“If not, we would be tying up resources, which are hard to come by,” said the Prime Minister at one of the meetings.