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EDITORIAL: Reform is necessary


EDITORIAL: Reform is necessary

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PUBLIC SERVICE EFFICIENCY is once again headline news; perhaps for the wrong reasons.

Last Tuesday’s adjournment in the case brought by the Chief Town Planner in the Rock Hard Cement matter had to be adjourned because as the magistrate is reported to have put it, the marshals did not “do their duty”.

There may be many perfectly valid explanations for this occurrence but some will be quick to jump on this incident as reflective of the court system which is then criticised for being slow; and sometimes, as the most visible aspect of the system, the judges and magistrates get the brunt of the criticism.

Yet the incident shows that there are many cogs in the wheels of justice and that the speed of movement depends very much on each cog executing its functions efficiently since there is a domino effect which will have an impact on the operations in the courts which are the areas open to public scrutiny.

But this point is also applicable to every part of the public service. Members of the public who are served by, or interact with Government offices have their own share of  experiences of delays or other inefficiencies which reflect badly on the entire service, but  in many cases the root cause of the problem may be nothing more, figuratively speaking, than a tiny irritant in somebody’s shoes. Small foxes can indeed spoil the vine.

It is about inefficiency and worse that the Minister of Industry and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss, spoke when he delivered a broadside on the impact which such inefficiency can have on national development. He boldly declared that some Government departments are not very efficient, and that they do everything to frustrate people from doing business in this country.

What is more, he was not prepared to bury his head in the sand, and ignore frustration faced by business officials who are trying to bring investment into the island and create jobs to help grow the economy.

These are very strong words, because the minister is accusing some departments of deliberately frustrating investors, at a time when the country is trying to attract more investment. And yet it may be that the minister will find a measure of support even among non-business members of the public.

Our first prime minister the late Rt Excellent Errol Barrow once referred to the public service as an army of occupation, no doubt out of a sense of frustration at the slow pace of turning policy into action. Yet if Mr Inniss’ criticism is a fair reflection of some aspects of present day public service, then it may well be that public sector reform has not had the pervasive beneficial impact which it was hoped it would have had.

Whatever the situation, the minister’s words cannot be ignored. Those Government departments which he says are not very efficient and which do everything in their power to frustrate people from doing business must be identified to the Office of Public Sector Reform so that those attitudes and that state of affairs can be changed.

The minister correctly, we think, stayed away from the matters before the law courts and declared that he was dealing with the broader issue of inefficiency in the public service, from which he said we cannot run away.

The minister’s strictures on the broader issue cannot be ignored, and reform is urgently required where necessary.