Minister of the Public Service and National Insurance Brensil Rolle yesterday defended civil servants in the country after the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) reported that the secretary to the Cabinet described deputy permanent secretaries as “extraordinarily weak”.
“The Bahamas public service has some of the more dedicated and productive citizens in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas,” Rolle said in a statement.
“There are scores of public officers who have given a lifetime of outstanding service.
“Unfortunately, as in many other areas of Bahamian life, there is a tendency to paint all members of any group with the same brush.
“The public service has often been an easy target.
“There is an ongoing and perennial need for public sector reform.
“Unfortunately, the last administration engaged in various poor practices, including the unnecessary and unprecedented hiring of more individuals than required in the public sector.
“Comments made in an Inter-American Development Bank study on the public sector recently garnered considerable attention.
“The broader message of the report was on measures needed to improve weaknesses in the public sector, and to help make the sector more productive, effective and efficient.
“The current administration is committed to improving the public service in order to better serve the Bahamian people. Indeed, this is a priority for the Minnis administration.
“Even as improvements are made, it is essential that we acknowledge and celebrate the many fine and dedicated public officers who serve, protect and defend our country on a daily basis, including those in the uniformed branches, who have been critical in reducing crime over the last year and a half.”
Rolle said he is committed to ongoing reform in the civil service.
Camille Johnson serves as secretary to the Cabinet.
Her comments are contained in a recently published report by the IDB entitled “Building Capacity in The Caribbean: The state of the civil service in The Bahamas”.
The report was prepared by Joan H. Underwood and is linked on the IDB’s website.
According to the report, “The PS (permanent secretary) in the MPS (Ministry of Public Service and National Insurance) indicated that, while the staff numbers were high, the civil service had a hollow middle and lacked essential skills.
“The Cabinet secretary and several permanent secretaries, as well as external stakeholders, reaffirmed this assessment of the lack of essential skills. In fact, the Cabinet secretary described the cadre of deputy permanent secretaries (DPS) as ‘extraordinarily weak’.”
Following the publication of the report, Shadow Minister of Labour Senator Fred Mitchell said Johnson’s comments are “damning and shocking”.
“We all appreciate what the difficulties are with public administration, but when you make these kinds of blanket statements you condemn everybody with these words,” Mitchell said in the Senate.