Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Services Commission takes on new role
Observer Reporter
Thursday, January 02, 2003



Junior minister for finance and planning, Fitz Jackson (right), has the attention of Charles Jones (left), chief personnel officer at the Offices of the Services Commission, and Wayne Jones, president of the Jamaica Civil Service Association, at a recent function in Kingston.

PERMANENT secretaries and chief executive officers (CEOs) of executive agencies will now be able to deal with their own human resource management issues, as part of a Government push to ensure greater accountability, efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of services in the public sector.

These human resource management or personnel functions, which previously fell within the ambit of the Public Services Commission (PSC), entail the recruitment and selection of all personnel; dealing with promotions and selection of persons for training and study leave; dealing with transfers and disciplinary matters; separation from the service; retirement; dismissals and approving pensionable payments.

With this change, the Office of the Services Commission (OSC) has assumed a more strategic role in monitoring the performance of the public service in respect of the delegated functions; conducting periodic audits and surveys to assess the management of the delegated functions; providing recourse and redress mechanisms for employees; ensuring that adequate training is provided; and being a source of consultation and advice.

"The responsibility of the OSC will be to go out and audit and monitor to see that they (permanent secretaries and CEOs) are performing these functions in accordance with the Accountability Agreement, which they signed," Charles Jones, chief personnel officer at the OSC told JIS News.

Jones, who has been head of the OSC for the past two years, said the commission serves as the secretariat for five commissions, including the PSC, which has responsibility for Central Government; the Judicial Services Commission, which deals with the appointments of Resident Magistrates, puisne judges, judges and judges of the Court of Appeal; the Police Services Commission, which is responsible for appointments from inspector upwards; the Municipal Services Commission, which deals with matters at the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC); and the Parish Council Services Commission, which has responsibility for the 12 parish councils.

With particular reference to the public service and implementation of the Public Sector Modernisation Programme (PSMP), Jones stressed that the delegated authorities are expected to perform their functions, "under the guidelines that were arrived at in consultations with them and which they signed to when the delegation was granted".

"It is all in the Accountability Agreement and it sets out the mandate, functions delegated, how they should proceed in matters of recruitment and appointment," he said.

Jones pointed out that the OSC will look at requests for recourse and redress if there is someone who feels that the process might not have been in keeping with the established guidelines. If it is a disciplinary matter, the person has the right to appeal to the local Privy Council.

"We are still here to give guidance and to see that whatever happens is being done in accordance with the agreement signed. We have not abdicated our responsibilities. We will still have a role to play in the question of ensuring that the functions are carried out. We will have oversight responsibility for monitoring the performance of the permanent secretaries and CEOs and we will do this through human resource management audits, meetings and conducting surveys," he said.

He noted, too, that the auditing of ministries that have been given delegated authority and the first four executive agencies have been done. The ministries are Local Government and Community Development; Education, Youth and Culture; Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Office, while the executive agencies are the Management Institute for National Development (MIND); Administrator General's Department; Registrar General's Department and the Office of the Registrar of Companies.

"The audits done to date have shown that the delegated functions have been performed in a satisfactory manner," Jones said.

This month the other four executive agencies -- National Works Agency, National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), National Land Agency and Jamaica Information Service (JIS) -- will be audited.

Jones explains that the auditing will entail officers from the OSC going to the agencies and looking at how appointments and promotions are made, how disciplinary procedures are handled, meeting and talking to the CEOs and staff at all levels and, if necessary, conduct surveys to get feedback from staff.

The reports will then be sent back to the CEOs, the cabinet ssecretary and chairman and members of the PSC, which will, if necessary, make recommendations on how to improve what is being done.

"Each and every member of the agencies can feel free to come in and talk on any matter that is relevant to their work situation," Jones said.

The OSC came into effect in 1952, and when Jamaica became independent in 1962, the office was entrenched in the Constitution.

Pointing out that the public service has come a long way over the last 50 years, Jones said it has evolved from the era where promotions were based mostly on seniority, to a situation where advancements are now based on merit, educational qualification and performance.

"People now can't become too complacent and say promotions will come. You now have to merit a promotion and work for it," he said.

He pointed out that persons in the civil service have become more qualified due to training courses facilitated by the Government and there has been a rapid increase in persons who are university trained.

At the same time, Jones said that with emphasis now being placed on performance management, there has to be new techniques for selecting staff, especially for specialised jobs and senior positions.

"We are coming up with new methods of assessment other than the straight interview. This is a whole new change from what we did in the past and it is all for better service to the public, our customers," he said.