Minister: We need a shift in culture at ministry


Minister of Works Desmond Bannister.


Tribune Staff Reporter

WORKS Minister Desmond Bannister has called for a fundamental shift in the culture at Ministry of Works and its auxiliary offices, saying the agency has not had the best reputation over the years.

He said “bad practices need to be eliminated” as it can no longer be business as usual at the ministry.

The call came during the opening of the ministry’s annual lecture series, as Mr Bannister urged department heads to do all that is necessary to spur inclusiveness, professional advancement, structural and systematic improvements, and innovation.

“You will all appreciate from listening to at least one of our distinguished lecturers last year that even highly placed and experienced public servants do not know the true function and utility of this ministry.”

Mr Bannister added: “We have to show them what we do, and what we can do to improve this country; and we have the talent in this ministry to do it.”

The Carmichael MP said employees of the Ministry of Works, on a daily basis, focus diligently on a diversity of tasks that when combined produces results that Bahamians see, touch and feel every day of their lives.

“What you do enhances the quality of life for every single Bahamian,” he said. “We are truly the ministry of everything. Henceforth we will be the innovators in this country, not simply the firemen.

“In many instances we have to take instructions from other ministries, but there is no reason why we should not be seen as the proactive leaders who make a difference. That means that we have to take the approach that has been championed by S E Lowe and focus on preventative maintenance in every department of this ministry.

“I expect that the leaders of each department will develop a focused approach to inspecting facilities, infrastructure and roads so that we can recommend appropriate action to the relevant ministries before they begin to experience problems.

“Air conditioning systems and elevators should not have to break down or come to the end of their useful life before we belatedly respond. I’m looking forward to us taking the initiative and adopting this approach throughout the ministry, and I can also tell you that complacency will not be tolerated.

“… I want you to appreciate that everything we do impacts people’s lives,” Mr Bannister said. “We have a duty to act promptly. We cannot let matters sit around for months without continuous follow-ups.”

With respect to professional advancement, Mr Bannister told employees in attendance that as minister, he stood in support of anyone “sufficiently ambitious to seek personal progress.”

He said: “In order for us to take this focus, we must continue to develop our professional competence. I anticipate that all of you who have titles that begin with the word ‘assistant’ have already begun to focus on your professional enrichment.”

Mr Bannister said a training and development division will be created to assist those employees interested in obtaining additional qualifications in view of being promoted.

“There are too many top technical posts that are vacant while we have filled all of the assistant posts below them. The ministry will be supportive of those who are sufficiently ambitious to seek personal progress.

“The path to your promotion is being provided and I shall be asking the senior officers to act as mentors for those who want to advance,” he said.

Speaking specifically to women employees, Mr Bannister added: “Let me emphasise at this stage that there is no glass ceiling in this ministry, so there is no barrier to you ladies moving up.”

On the point of structural and systematic improvements, Mr Bannister revealed that the Ministry of Works is seeking to improve on many of the challenges employees face.

He said the government has committed $1.6 million for vehicles for the ministry this budget year, the first of what officials expect to be a $3m investment in vehicles.

Additionally, Mr Bannister also noted plans for upgrades at Ministry of Works’ offices and buildings across the country.

“(The administrative building) is not the most welcoming place to come to. The exterior is unbecoming. The lobby is outdated. The staircase and railings need to be updated. Office space and equipment are not fitting for professionals. Only two wings have been updated. Machinery is generally outdated.”

He added: “Much of this northern compound has to be renovated; and quite frankly the telephone system stinks. This year there will be incremental improvement in our facilities; however, we will also begin to plan for increased space for your work environment. You will all be consulted on the proposed improvements, and where work does take place, we are expected to keep it in pristine condition.”

Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Public Works Iram Lewis and Director of the Department of Works Melanie Roach also attended the event.

Ms Roach said several projects will take place this year.

“We have a myriad of projects that we are going to be looking at for the new year throughout the country – repaving roads, both in the Family Islands and New Providence; replacing bridges, improving docks; we have two airports that are presently (being worked) on, one… the contract has already been issued, that’s a new terminal building and improvement for the air-side for Berry Islands airport and then by, I would say the third quarter of this year, you would see construction commence on the new terminal building and air-side works for the Exuma International Airport.”

Mrs Roach added: “And the design for the North Eleuthera airport will commence by the middle of this year. We don’t expect construction to start on that until next year because that is basically going to be a brand-new airport; new runway, new terminal building. So, it is going to take us at least 12 months to do that design.”