‘Deal fairly’ with all public officers


Tribune Chief Reporter


FORMER Public Service Minister Brensil Rolle yesterday told the Davis administration to “deal fairly” with all public officers amid claims that some in the service were being victimised.

According to Mr Rolle, it was becoming common practice for some officers to be treated as “political operatives” when this should not be the case as they’ve served in many instances consecutive governments.

Mr Rolle made the comments yesterday, telling The Tribune he stood by assertions that career civil servants were being removed from their posts without cause or due process.

“What they need to do is deal fairly with public officers,” the former minister said in an interview with The Tribune yesterday.

“The first thing they need to do is treat public officers properly and don’t characterise them as being political operatives because they work for all governments and I am talking about career public officers and the individuals who are being affected are career public officers and that is sad that politics is implied in that.

“The big question is, is the PLP prepared to offer compensation to the people that they have sent home and individuals that they have transferred because they did it for police officers and they did it for (Financial Secretary) Simon Wilson. So, the same should apply across the board.”

He spoke after the Free National Movement last week accused the government of weaponising the Ministry of Public Service to go after career civil servants who have served across different administrations.

The party said the government’s conduct was destroying the bedrock of democracy.

“Senior officers are sent home by decree in letters signed by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, which are renewed every two weeks and usually contain the following lines: ‘In accordance with General Orders 1125, you are hereby placed on administrative leave with immediate effect…’ General Orders 1125 speaks to investigations of public officers for wrongdoing and insubordination and describes a process that must be followed,” the FNM said in a statement last week.

“However, the civil servants being targeted have immaculate records of serving with distinction throughout their careers, and no such process is initiated. The Ministry of Public Service (MPS) has refused to provide these officers with justification on why this serious action has been taken against them and why the MPs would use extreme measures and send them on leave without even a shamed process on their file.

“Some of the officers are still on leave, and others who returned are ‘redeployed’ out of their positions. They are not assigned any work and are left to stare at the wall for the entire day. The intent of which is to inflict psychological pain. This continues even after it has been reported that the Davis administration has settled an undisclosed amount with Mr Simon Wilson, Financial Secretary, who spent years on administrative leave. Another cadre of senior officers the Davis administration believes do not support the PLP and did not send home are also ill-treated and left to stare at walls.”

The statement continued: “Their responsibilities and duties are reassigned to junior officers and PLP supporters who have parachuted into the public service on hefty contracts, lacking knowledge, skills, and prerequisites for the jobs. A glaring example of this are qualified career civil servants trained as Family Island administrators, officially transferred to the Department of Local Government in the relevant substantive post, and assigned to various family island administrators’ offices.”

The party accused the Davis administration of having singled out everyone from this group who they believe do not support them and as a result they are dismissed from their official posting by General Orders. The officers are then sent back to their previous ministries, only to discover that their original positions were already filled.

“They have no portfolio and are left idle. Meanwhile, the Davis administration has hired unqualified PLP supporters to fill the Family Island administrator positions. These officers have sued the government, but the Davis administration has not moved to settle the matter the way they have done for Mr Wilson and others,” the FNM claimed.

“Senior career civil servants are overshadowed by the many retired permanent secretaries the Davis administration has rehired on contracts, some to lead critical ministries, snatching away public officers’ opportunities to progress further in the service.”

The FNM claimed that to date, some fourteen retired permanent secretaries were holding essential portfolios. At the same time, many senior officers are disengaged or left to take on work below their pay grade, leaving a knowledge and experience gap that is trickling down and demolishing the foundation of the public service.

“This all-out war against career civil servants is destroying the bedrock of Bahamian democracy and removing the guardrails required for good governance and political stability. Besides a weakening public service, the Davis administration’s cruel actions will create a heavy financial burden on the public purse and a careless increase of the national debt, as sidelined public servants are still entitled to their salaries and emoluments that the government must pay.

“We ask the prime minister: When will senior civil servants on administrative leave return to work?

“When will senior civil servants who were stripped of their duties be given work in line with their positions? When will the government pay the civil servants who they have sent home and were found to have done nothing wrong?

“The outright victimisation of civil servants the Davis administration believes does not support the PLP must stop,” the FNM said.

Officials in the Office of the Prime Minister did not respond to requests for comment.