Felix Gregoire

The opening of the year 2012 is an opportune time to extend warmest New Year’s greetings to all citizens of the Commonwealth of Dominica and to thank all Government Employees for their dedication, commitment and diligence during 2011.

In recent times, the perception being given in the media is that the Public Service of the Commonwealth of Dominica is politicised. This perception is totally baseless. The Public Service has served the general public with integrity and impartiality and will certainly continue to do so without fear or favour in 2012 and beyond.

Section 68 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica states: “Where any Minister has been charged with responsibility for any department of Government, he shall exercise general direction and control over that department; and, subject to such direction and control, every department of Government shall be under the supervision of a public officer whose office is referred to in this Constitution as the office of a Permanent Secretary:”.

This section of the Constitution clearly describes the relationship between the Minister and the Permanent Secretary, which demands that in the management of a Department or Ministry the Minister and Permanent Secretary must work together in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.

Put simply, the Minister is responsible for policy direction with the advice of the Permanent Secretary while the Permanent Secretary is responsible for the administrative aspects, which include the implementation of policy, rules and regulations.

Government’s policy framework is outlined in the Growth and Social Protection Strategy (GSPS) which has been developed with the input of various stakeholders, culminating with the final approval of the Cabinet. Presently the GSPS is being revised for the second time.

Given that Government’s policy is outlined in the GSPS, there should be no conflict between the Minister and Permanent Secretary in the implementation of such policy.

With respect to the recruitment and promotion of public officers, this responsibility rests with the Public Service Commission. In the performance of its duties the Commission receives recommendations from Permanent Secretaries and Head of Departments, (never from Ministers). The decisions of the Commission are final except in the case of officers to be appointed under Section 86 of the Constitution which requires the Prime Minister to give a “no objection” to these appointments.

This “no objection” is enshrined in Section 86 (1) of the Constitution and has been exercised by every Prime Minister since 1978.

Permanent Secretaries and Head of Departments are public officers who have worked their way upwards through the various ranks within the Public Service, and have served various administrations (Governments).

These officers, after completing their professional training overseas, have returned to Dominica to serve their country through thick and thin. Many of them could have landed lucrative jobs overseas, but decided to remain in Dominica to contribute to the national development.

It should be noted that the few advisors engaged by the Government operate within their terms of reference and are not public officers, although they may report to a Permanent Secretary.

There may not always be agreement between Ministers and Permanent Secretaries on the specific manner in which programmes are implemented, but this has been managed through the observance of public service rules and regulations, and of course the will to see progress and development in the country.

Senior public officers have the discipline to separate personal opinion and agenda from professional advice and good work ethics, given the need to account to their superiors as well as set the example for subordinates and officers under their supervision.

The Public Service of Dominica is an institution. Many persons have entered and left the public service and various Governments have been in and out of office. Through all these, the Public Service has remained as an institution established by the Dominica Constitution.

The recent Public Service Reform Programmes have been designed mainly to increase productivity in the Public Service. These improvements have produced tremendous results at the Inland Revenue, Customs and Registry for example, while improvements will soon follow in other areas.

In conclusion, there is need for the Public Service, like any other institution, to continuously examine its operations, policies and programmes to ensure achievement of targeted development objectives. Therefore, any input, feedback or suggestions that will support the valiant efforts of the Public Service in this endeavour, would be welcomed.