Today marks 500 days since the new administration took office on May 25, 2018 and a great deal has happened since that time, including the laying off of public servants.
Although it was understood that this was a requirement in order to obtain much needed funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it still remains a bitter pill, which was compounded by the number of Ministers in office and salary increases for the remaining service, including those at the top and the LIFO method utilised.
At the time, the logic for these decisions was understood. The Government had and continues to carry a significant mandate to turn the country around from the scores of downgrades and dysfunction that had persisted for several years and an incentive was required to motivate the remaining demoralised public servants.
However, now that the dust has begun to settle somewhat, it is time to revisit these issues.
As I have said previously, I have no issue with the number of Ministers ... as long as these Ministers are performing. If we have 50 productive Ministers, the country will be better for it. If we have five non-performing Ministers, there will be no improvement. Barbados can ill afford to have anyone in the service that is not contributing to the recovery of this country and having non-, or low performing leaders not only wastes scarce monetary resources, it also sets a terrible tone for the service that this is acceptable.
I do not expect a performance-based system to be implemented overnight. In addition to the mammoth exercise required to train and acclimatise persons to this new way of doing things, there will also be the effort required to change the cultural mindset that performance will outweigh length of service.
This is why it is critical that our Prime Minister sets the tone by conducting a performance-based appraisal for Ministers against the Manifesto promises made to the people of Barbados, as well as the objectives established for the successful operations of each Ministry that they are responsible for. They should also answer to the progress made on any outstanding issues stemming from the Auditor General's report which impact their Ministry and provide explanations for any delays and target dates for completion.
Without this exercise, much of the efforts to generate growth in this economy will be hamstrung, as we cannot only depend on the private sector to carry the responsibility for growing the economy. It will also cast doubt as to whether these Ministers are worthy of a vote when the next round of elections comes due.
If Ministers are not held to the highest level of accountability, it would be unreasonable to expect this of the public service. We cannot continue to look as layoffs as a dollars and cents exercise. If we cut 50 per cent of the service but have sent home all the workers that would perform and keep those that will not, yes, we would have complied with IMF stipulations, but we would soon discover that we are no better off and the public service will continue to carry a poor perception.
I strongly believe that there are many public servants who perform well despite less than ideal circumstances. We often hear of sick buildings, poorly functioning or nonexistent equipment required to complete the job and a deficiency in computer equipment that many of us in the private sector have grown used to in helping us to excel.
Those workers that manage to get the job done are then disadvantaged when they give of their best and can make a significant contribution to their country but are pushed aside for no other reason than being new kid on the block.
If we continue to employ persons that do not perform well, are insubordinate and believe that they cannot be terminated, it will make a mockery of the good workers that were terminated for the benefit of this country and their personal sacrifice would have been in vain.
Let us not continue to throw mud in their face by continuing to potentially employ poor performing Ministers or public servants.
*Krystle Howell, CPA, CIA, COSO, ALMI, ACS, aka Mavis, is an Internal Auditor by profession, avid artist and a lover of dance.