Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica

Administrative Reform Programme - 12th January, 1996

Address by
His Excellency Crispin Anselm Sorhaindo, D.A.H., O.B.E.
President of the Commonwealth of Dominica

To The Policy Visioning Workshop on the Administrative Reform Programme
Friday, 12th January, 1996 at 9:00 A.M. at the Garraway Hotel


The Civil Service in Dominica has developed along side the British Civil Service but never formed part of that Service.

British Colonial Governors were appointed by the Crown to administer the affairs of the Colonies. "Colonial Regulations" were issued as "directions to Governors for general guidance by the Crown through the Secretary of State for the Colonies". One set of such Regulations applied to Public Officers, another to Public Business. The Regulations for Public Officers applied to the Governor himself - appointment by Her Majesty, payment of salary, leave passages etc. and also to other officers. Some of these officers, i.e. those whose salaries were in excess of a stated figure of £1000 per annum in one document in the 1960's!) and whose appointments had to be approved by the Secretary of State, formed part the "Colonial Service". These Regulations made it clear that the appointments made did not constitute a contract between the Crown and its servants, that they were made by the authority of Her Majesty, and that they were held during Her Majesty's pleasure. They provided detailed procedures in relation to conduct and discipline.

The Governors themselves issued another set of Regulations called "General Orders" (Windward Islands). The Ministerial System of Government which for the first time gave executive authority to a Chief Minister and other Ministers appointed on his advice, was introduced in the 1959 Constitution Order in council made under the Dominica Act 1938. The Order in Council provided for the first time in a law (albeit a British law), for the regulation of appointments and dismissal and exercise of disciplinary control over public officers. The power was given to the Administrator who acted in place of the Governor of the Windward Islands. He was required to consult a Public Service commission (P.S.C) created by the Constitution Order and also to consult the Chief Minister in certain case but was not obliged to act on their advice.

The 1967 Constitution which introduced the Cabinet System went further and made the P.S.C. Executive, i.e. appointments were made by the P.S.C. itself and for some senior posts by the Governor (who replaced the Administrator) acting in accordance with the advice of the P.S.C. The Premier was to be consulted regarding the appointment of Permanent Secretaries, Heads and Deputy Heads of Departments and he could signify his objection to an appointment.

(The current 1978 Constitution has provisions similar to the 1967 Constitution).

While the Constitution Orders made clear legal provisions for the regulation of appointments, and dismissal and exercise of disciplinary control over public servants, other areas affecting the public service — pay allowances, c1assification, grading, terms of appointment, qualifications for appointment, leave, etc., remained very largely discretionary until the 1973 Civil Service Act (No. 30/73) was passed. This Act gave the "General Orders of the Windward Islands, Colonial Regulations and Financial and Stores Rules" the force of law in respect of matters of conduct, procedure and discipline. This latter phase created some problems in interpretation.

The Windward Islands General Orders were revised as Dominica General Orders sometime in the mid 1970's but their legal status was in doubt. The 1973 Act was repealed n 1991 by the new Public Service Act (No.27/91) which sought give legal force to the new General Orders (Section 42(1) of the Act).

The regulation of the Public Service has moved from one governed under prerogative since 1959 and in stages to one now almost completely governed by law. (Dominica is one of the very few former Colonies in the Caribbean with a Public Service Act, Trinidad is another that I am aware of).

By comparison, the British Civil Service is almost completely governed through prerogative powers.

While British Ministers and Permanent Secretaries have wide powers in relation to tenure, discipline, promotions, pay, etc., of the British Civil Service, similar officials in Dominica have severely restricted powers, in relation to appointments, promotions and discipline with powers with respect to other matters circumscribed by Law.

Much has been written and said about the pros and cons of the operation of the P.S.C's in the former Colonies. These Commissions were imposed by the British for the purpose of insulating the public service from "undue political influence". Some say that this action has made the development of an efficient and productive public service an almost impossible task as management is deprived of an essential feature of its function, the ability to hire and fire!

The fact is, however, that the P.S.C. with all its powers, is entrenched in the Constitution and it could be a long time before any change can be made.

In the meantime the provisions in the Constitution must be respected and the autonomy of the Public Service Commission must be safeguarded.

The challenge that we face is to what extent there can be cooperation between the P.S.C's and Permanent Secretaries to facilitate effective management.

The British Civil Service whose traditions we have held in high regard, are based on principles of impartiality, integrity, honesty, selection and promotion on merit and loyalty to the government of the day.

The first attempts at reform of that Service in 19th Century were made following the Northcote - Trevelyan Report of 1853. That Report stated that "the Government of the Country could not be carried out without the aid of an efficient body of permanent officers occupying a position duly subordinate to that of Ministers who are directly responsible to the Crown and to parliament yet possessing sufficient independence, character, ability and experience to be able to advise, assist and to some extent, influence those who are from time to time set over them".

The Report made recommendations for the reorganization of the Service, some of which were implemented, the major ones being the selection through "a proper system of examination of a thoroughly efficient class of men", to foster promotion on merit, and to unify the Service (as distinct from selection for service in one department). A Civil Service Commission was established to oversee the examination and selection process but through an Order-in-Council and not on a statutory basis.

The relatively recent Fulton Commission Report of 1968, has produced a series of changes in the Service aimed at improving management performance, in particular, through increased accountability of individual managers, based on clear objectives and on responsibilities. Reforms include performance-related pay schemes and other incentives. The Next Steps Initiatives launched in 1988 aim at improving not only management, but also efficiency and quality of services provided to the public and to customers within government. This involves the setting up of separate units and agencies whose heads are made personally responsible for their performance. They enjoy a great measure of delegation in relation to finance, pay and personnel matters.

Concern has been expressed about the effect that is new approach will have on the traditional values of Civil Service.

This and other issues have recently been addressed in a Report of the House of Commons Treasury and Civil Service Committee entitled "The Role of the Civil Service" published by the HMSO in November 1994.

The Report was reviewed in an article in the Parliamentarian of July 1995 by the Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Giles Radice, a member of the Opposition. Some of you may already have read the article entitled "Code of Conduct - Protecting the integrity of the British Civil Service".

A far reaching recommendation in the Report which hss been accepted by the Government, is the publication of a New Civil Service Code which defines the role and responsibility of Civil Servants as seen in the context of duties and responsibilities of Ministers. The Report looks ahead and makes recommendations to equip the Civil Service for the demands of the 21st Century. (I sincerely hope that your Workshop/Retreat will do the same). It also takes into account the possibility of a change in Government and in this regard it provides some useful guidelines for us having recently experienced a change in Government. It contains a new duty imposed on Ministers to familiarize themse1ves with the content of the Code and not to ask Civil Servants to act in breach of it. It reminds Civil Servants of their duty to obey the law, to deal with the public honestly, fairly and without mal-administration and to ensure the proper use of public money etc. etc.

I have provided a copy of the Summary and Recommendations of the Report to the Secretary and I hope that each participant in the Workshop will read it as soon as possible.

Against this background, I should like briefly to re-state some of the Conclusions in the Secretariat' s Report covering the Reform Programme from 1985 to 1995. The Reform Programme is as it was in 1990 - it is at the cross-roads. The general view is that it has not delivered the gains in efficiency and effectiveness anticipated and there is considerable degree of dissatisfaction at all levels, although all parties agree that further reforms are necessary. The political directorate has changed. Many of the senior public officers are no longer in post. The economy is under pressure.

The Report did not go on to suggest the possible reasons for the lack of progress in the Programme and the constraints on progress.

The document setting out the draft terms of reference for this Workshop/Retreat, is even more explicit. It states that there is a consensus that the service is over-staffed, service levels are considered to be unsatisfactory, discipline poor and motivation low. There are indications that lack of ownership, commitment, attention to process issues and inadequate programme management and technical support have all contributed to the moribund status of the Administrative Reform (A.R.P). Reasons for lack of progress vary according to source.

As you will have noticed from the documentation submitted to you and in the Report of the Policy Makers Retreat of August 17 to 19, 1990, I gave some insights to that Retreat on my experience of the Caribbean Development Bank's comprehensive Organisation and Management Study undertaken in 1983, how it was effected and lessons learnt, while I was Director of Administration and Bank Secretary. You will have observed also that the Retreat produced a very valuable set of proposals which if they were fully implemented would have resulted in substantial improvements in the management and operations of the Public Service.

Today, we have gathered here to do very much the same thing that was done at Layou in 1990. Where will we be in the year 2000!

Indeed, were it not for the fact that there are now left only four out of thirty-four participants, and four out of nineteen Public Officers who attended the 1990 Retreat, there would be no need to repeat it this weekend. This in itself tells a story. The change in the Ministerial team, the result of the democratic process, is good reason for a getting together of Ministers and Public Officers to get to know each other. The high turnover in the Senior Public Service is cause for concern; but had the "Actions" identified in the Retreat been implemented, the new Government would 1ave found in place a reasonably efficient public service and the urgency to meet at this time, even while a comprehensive study on "Public Sector Reform and Modernization" for discussion at the CGCED Meeting in Washington in June 1966 Is under way, could have been obviated. (Incidentally, that study, as this Seminar is being financed by the same donor agency!). I suggest that the Terms of reference etc. regarding that study be reviewed by all participants in this Workshop/Retreat if only to make you aware of the stance likely to be taken by Aid-donors in the future. Size and functions of Government, contracting out/privatizing, diversifying of functions and services, and so on, all have the taste of the bitter medicine which is the prescription of the IMF the U.S. Government and now even the World Bank. Representatives of the Staff Associations who are fortunately a part of this exercise must get prepared to explain to their members the harsh realities which will follow the CGCED Meeting as it determines the parameters for allocating future aid. Events in Belize, Barbados, and Grenada, should not be lost on us.

Lest it be said that I deliberately overlooked an issue which will arise, I should say that I expect that the size of the public service at Permanent Secretary level and the attendant entourage of administrative, clerical and subordinate staff and other associated expenditures, e.g. accommodation, telephones, and so on, will in some form be raised by aid-donors and others. This of course is a direct consequence of the number of Ministers appointed.

I should now like to turn to some specific issues.

The Public and Police Service Commissions are given. Their functions as laid down in the Constitution and in the exercise of these functions they are not subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority. They can, by Regulation or otherwise, regulate their own procedure and with the consent of the Prime Minister, confer powers or impose duties on any public officer or on any authority for the purpose of the exercise of their functions. The Commissions can also delegate some of their powers to any one or more of their members or with the consent of the Prime Minister to any public officer.

There is general acceptance that the Commissions' Regulations are in need of drastic, revision if only to delete provisions which are ultra vires bearing in mind the famous Thomas vs Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago decision of the Privy Council which points out the need for divorcing policy - terms and conditions of service a matter for Government - from the conduct of disciplinary proceedings - a matter for the P.S.C's. There is also need for delegation of functions, especially in the case of the Public Service Commission. After 10 years of a Reform Programme and a series of drafts of Regulations, the P.S.C. Regulations remain virtually the same as when they were made in 1975 and 1977.

Discipline has reached an all time low. This is particularly evident in the Police Force (a disciplined service!) where the cumbersome and complicated procedures required to discipline a police officer for even minor offences require much complex procedure that supervisors ignore them and even more serious offences.

Another constraint on effective disciplining is the shortage of legal staff to assist in the preparation of charges and also to sit on Boards of Inquiry where necessary. It is not unknown that public officers and police officers remain away from their jobs for years pending the hearing cases against them and even when the cases a finally heard, they are exonerated because of badly presented cases. There should be a commitment by all concerned to change the situation.

The current cumbersome procedures are a disincentive to prompt disciplining of staff. If there is the will there is no reason why amendments to the existing Regulations could not be made pending their general revision. In this regard, however, the cooperation of the P.S.C.'s and the staff Associations and of the Ministry of Legal Affairs, will be essential.

(A Report entitled "Public Service Reform – Dominica – Some Issues for Consideration" prepared by Carla Herbert, Legislative Draftsman and Law Reform Advisor of Trinidad and Tobago, prepared in April 1994, is instructive in this regard. It also suggests amendments to the Public Service Act).

The Public Service Act of 1991 established a Public Service Board of Management comprising some Permanent Secretaries and a legal officer, to advise the Minister on all matters affecting the management, direction and control of the Public Service and to be a review agency in relation to disputes in the Public Service. This Board has not performed its functions.

The Act also established a Committee of Permanent Secretaries to coordinate the functions of the Public Service, to consider and make recommendations on any matter referred to it by the Chairman and to plan the implementation of career development and succession planning in the Public Service. While the committee by law should meet at least every quarter, it meets from time to time but not to perform the important functions given to it in the law.

This brings me to the question of Leadership and esprit de corps. One of the objectives of the Layou Retreat was to create conditions under which an esprit de corps would be fostered as a basis of a strong team between the two decision making groups, i.e. Cabinet members and the group of Permanent Secretaries. No doubt, this Workshop will have a similar objective. In this regard, I recommend to you two papers written by Mr. Julian Johnson now Cabinet Secretary, one written in 1998 for the Layou Retreat entitled "The Position and Functions of the Permanent Secretary in Dominica" and the other in May 1993 for a Parliamentary Seminar entitled "Ministerial Responsibility". I suggest that they should be required reading for this Seminar. The relationship between the political directorate and Permanent Secretaries has to be discussed if maximum efficiency in the public service is to be achieved.

My concern on this occasion however has to do with the group of permanent secretaries as perceived by the rest of the Public Service. Now more than ever, the Public Service needs strong leadership. Whether we like it or not, change will come as we cannot continue to sustain a Civil Service which absorbs 58% of recurrent revenue and which is not perceived as a highly efficient machine. If those charged with the implementation of change do not have a common vision, if they are not seen as a cohesive group, if they are openly antagonistic, change or attempts at change will result in chaos. The group must therefore do everything it can to demonstrate an esprit de corps. A willingness to work together for the common good, to recognize that their performance is not an end in itself, but a contribution to the overall performance of the Government.

Just as in the Cabinet system of Government the Cabinet presents a united front in support of and implementation of decisions that it takes, so also the Board of Management and the Committee of Permanent Secretaries should operate. Just as the Cabinet holds weekly meetings, so also should these institutions hold regular meetings to discuss the issues which by law they should be discussing, issues which should always be presented as papers thoroughly researched and prepared in professional fashion.

In addition to leadership as a group, the question of leadership of a Ministry is critical. A Permanent Secretary must be a person of proven management ability, a motivator, someone who can lead by example. Gone are the days when the top position in the hierarchy usually achieved through the "Seniority" route, could automatically command respect. Character weaknesses, incompetence, unfairness, and other negative factors, will not only be readily detected but will invite reaction leading to reduced efficiency. A reformed public service will require the best leaders, the best managers available, persons who are willing to continue to sharpen their management skills in an environment which is dynamic and which is producing more young academically qualified persons.

As envisaged in the Policy Makers Retreat Report, The Establishment, Personnel and Training Department (I should have liked to say the Ministry of the Public Service) will have the critical role in the successful implementation of the Reform Programme. The leadership of the Department should be given some stability. Four persons have been at the head of the Department over the past four (five) years!

This high turnover rate makes it very difficult to hold anyone accountable for performance or non-performance (As a matter of interest the P.S.C. Regulations make no provision for disciplinary procedures for Permanent Secretaries nor are there requirements for performance appraisal reports or these officers. How can the Public Service be relieved of an unsatisfactory performer or someone who infringes the disciplinary code who insists on remaining in office?).

The preparation of a plan for career development and succession in the Public Service, an activity to be performed by the Committee of Permanent Secretaries, could assist in providing some stability in the leadership of critical areas of the public service, a place which if prepared in consultation with the P.S.C's, could ease the relationship between these bodies and Public Service Managers. Such a plan would for example have taken into account the fact that the Head of the Establishment, Personnel and Training Department was to be allowed study leave to pursue a law degree for a two year period and that the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs who was to Act as Head of the Establishment, Personnel and Training Department, was also to be granted study leave for one year within that two year period.

I mentioned these cases to illustrate the problems which will be faced in planning – economic planning as well as planning for the public service. Will all concerned, Ministers as well as Permanent Secretaries, commit themselves to see a plan through its implementation?

I should like to raise another issue, the retirement age of 55. This has implications for the budget (the payment of pensions from the Consolidated Fund) and also in terms of wastage – requiring persons who have been trained at public expense for roles in the Public Service, to leave the public service at a point in their career when they are most productive. Dominica must be one of the very few countries in the world which maintains such a policy. I know that Bermuda has recently raised the retiring age from 55 to 60 and the CDB from 60 to 62. The United States and Canada have also raised the retiring age and this is the world trend. The costs of this policy could bear some examination.

Yet another issue is the high level of vacation leave. There are financial costs associated with this but no less important are the dislocation costs resulting in the string of acting appointments to be made, very often across Departments and Ministries for periods as long as six months or even a year!

There are other areas of concern which I have but I must not encroach further on the short time that you have together.

I hope that you have a productive Workshop and that you will emerge from your Retreat not only invigorated, but with a clear vision of a Dominica Public Service which will serve the Government and people of our Country loyally, faithfully and with efficiency.

"A New Era into a New millennium", the theme of my address to the House of Assembly at the opening session of the New Parliament in July last year. Let this theme apply not only to the members of the House but to the Public Service and all the people of our Country.

May God be with you as you go into your Retreat. You will most certainly need His help.

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