Task Force set up to execute promotions
After nearly a decade in waiting, Cabinet has finally approved some $8 million for a mass promotions exercise across the public service, which is expected to get underway once the 2018/2019 Budget comes into effect, the minister responsible confirmed Thursday.
Public Service Minister Brensil Rolle, who appeared on IL TV’s Beyond the Headlines with Clint Watsons said, the promotions exercise will be the first of its kind since 2011, under the Hubert Ingraham-led Free National Movement (FNM).
“A substantial amount of money is placed in our budget for promotions,” Rolle told the host, in an extensive interview Thursday night on the $30 million total that government has earmarked for the public service in the upcoming fiscal period.
“We have not had a service-wide promotion in its real sense since 2011. And so, there was kind of selective promotions. We say no! If you’re in the service, we’ll look at the entire service with a view that we are going to promote the best and the brightest in the service.”
In the first instance, Rolle said, civil servants engaged for over a decade – who have not been made permanent or have been overlooked for promotion in the past – can look forward to being in the number, which he did not specify.
“We will look strategically in the first instance for those persons who have been in the service for say 15 years or more. They’ve been coming to work. Some of them have good records. They’ve been doing their due diligence, but they’ve been left behind,” he explained.
“And so, in the public service, a task force has been set up to look at this, to say not only look at it because it’s the right thing to do but to say ‘listen, we’re a public service. We’ve got to be an example’. We can’t have individuals working with us for 15 years, for 20 years and can’t go to the bank and get a loan.”
It’s a reality, he said, many civil servants face.
Rolle also pointed out that $4 million of the $30 million has also been earmarked for skills development within the public service. This he said, has been set aside as government looks to attract the best and brightest Bahamians, particularly those working abroad.
“We … in the public service see this as an opportunity to not only expand the public service with is knowledge base but to encourage hundreds of ordinary young Bahamians; talented Bahamians, who are taking their talents outside of The Bahamas, [to return home],” he said.
“So we have placed in the budget $4 million for first-time employment of Bahamians who are coming out of university, who would wish to come back home and offer their service to The Bahamas and the Bahamian people.
“We see this as not only exciting, but we see this as an opportunity for Bahamians to look around and say ‘Listen. I am Bahamian. I’m proud the government is prepared to not only encourage me, but to pay me to come back into the service’.
“This government is committed to not only asking the best and the brightest Bahamians to come home, but we’re going to send them off for training so that they can continue to be valuable to us. In addition to that, we want to ensure that they contribute to The Bahamas.”
Rolle said he and his Cabinet colleagues are of the view that foreign consultants should no longer be considered for jobs which Bahamians are more than capable of.
He said “gone are the days” when government looks for experts outside of The Bahamas as “we have enough talent”.
“We have enough Bahamians and we will bring them back,” he said.
“We recognize that we are going to have to pay them. We recognize that the public service as it stands now, there is not much room for them in the public service … And so, the second tier of what we will do and this is in the prime minister’s office again, we’ve set up a modernization unit where we’re going to modernize the public service so that it can respond to the needs of Bahamians.”
Questioned about the integrity of the selection process of these skilled individuals, Rolle insisted there would be no favoritism of any kind and said, Bahamians will be reviewed fairly, as they will be judged purely on the skills they bring to the table.
“It will be based on merit and not who they are affiliated with,” he said.
“Let me go back to what the prime minister did a few weeks ago. The prime minister called the head of UB (University of The Bahamas) and said, ‘give me the four best students you get’. [In other words ]I don’t want to know what you’re involved with. I don’t want to know what you’re politics are. I want to know who are the best and brightest in the system.
“And that’s how transparent we’re going to be in this process because, again, if you know the thousands and perhaps millions of dollars we pay out to persons who are not Bahamians to engage in skills that I believe we can find.
“One of the things we are looking at is the fact that Bahamians abroad will not come back into this structured public service because you’re salaries are structured, you’re benefits are structured. And so, what we say is we realize that you’re going to have to pay a little bit more to get the best and brightest to come home.”
On this premise, the host questioned government’s position on paying skilled Bahamians what they are worth, as government, while in opposition, questioned the hiring of one Bahamian consultant in the Ministry of Tourism who was paid some $400,000.
Rolle responded, “I don’t think the question was why we’re paying this Bahamian this money. I think the issue was what was the process involved in engaging this Bahamian. And so, what we intend to do in the public service, is strategically go after Bahamians who are offering their talents all over the place.”
“I have a cousin who worked in Dubai and this year went to China. Well, those are the kind of Bahamians who could offer the same talent and skills in The Bahamas, if there are those opportunities.
“And we say in the public service that those opportunities will come your way. We are open to you, we are open to finding the best and brightest. We also have taken the secondary position which is, on an average about 400 to 500 persons retire from the public service every year. We want to replace these individuals with skilled Bahamians so that at some point we will create a new leadership in the public service.
“Yes, while we will continue to hire persons who are at the middle tier, certainly we will look to find individuals who are at the upper tier who has a degree of leadership, who have the skill sets to run the public service because, you’re never a good leader unless you are able to identify someone who can replace you.”