Address by Her Excellence Dame Pearlette Louisy on the occasion of Public Service Day – June 23rd, 2009
Address by Governor General
Her Excellence Dame Pearlette Louisy
on the occasion of Public Service Day
June 23rd, 2009
I am pleased to have been invited to share with you some of my thoughts and perspectives on the theme that has been chosen for the observance of this year’s Public Service Day – a day which the United Nations, in its concern for good governance, has set aside to celebrate the value and virtue of public service to the community, to highlight the contribution of the public service in the development process, to recognize the work of public servants and to encourage young people to pursue careers in the public sector. This year’s theme “Developing an Excellent Public Service : Your Responsibility, My Responsibility” is particularly timely as its speaks to the approach that we need to embrace in these increasingly challenging times – that is, shared responsibility in the achievement of our shared goals as a small developing nation. An efficient and competent Public Service is key to the achievement of these goals, given the significant role it plays in the execution and implementation of government policy.
But to ensure the proper execution of these duties and the efficient discharge of these responsibilities, we all need to have a clear idea of the role of the Public Service in our system of government. Indeed, how many of us take up appointments and positions in the Service without knowing exactly what we are getting ourselves into, relying solely on what we see or hear ? It is perhaps an opportune time, on the occasion of this year’s Public Service Day, to renew the call for an updated and modern Civil Service Code for Saint Lucia to which all civil servants would subscribe, and which would provide common guidelines for all to follow. In the interim, and for the purposes of this address, I have borrowed the following definition of the role and responsibility of the Public Service from a Code which to my mind best approximates our local situation and governance system.
“The constitutional and practical role of the Civil Service
is, with integrity, honesty, impartiality and objectivity, to
assist the duly constituted government, of whatever
political complexion, in formulating policies of the
government, carrying out decisions of the Government
and in administering public services for which the
Government is responsible.
Your role here is three-fold. The first is to assist in the formulation of policy. In this regard therefore, it is your traditional duty, especially that of the senior public officer, to make available to the political directorate, while policies and decisions are being formulated, all the information and experience at your disposal, and to do this without fear or favour, whether the advice you tender accords or does not accord with the particular Minister’s initial view (Raphaeli, 1967). This was the view espoused by public administrators decades ago, but it remains as relevant and as important now as it was then. By the same token, however, the political directorate has to accept and understand that fundamental role of yours and create and nurture the environment where you can conscientiously fulfill your roles and obligations. The development of an efficient and therefore excellent Public Service depends on the common understanding of that relationship. It is a shared responsibility.
Your second role is that of carrying out the decisions of Government. Here again, the same principles of integrity, honesty, impartiality and objectivity apply. Actions on your part which seek to frustrate the implementation of policies or decisions, once they have been taken and formulated, can only lead to problems which would affect the whole development process. Your third major role is the administration of services for which the Government is responsible. It is in the discharge of that function, more than any other, that you interact with members of the public, and in which you can demonstrate your commitment to national development and good governance. The public should never have reason to question your commitment in that regard. Any perception on their part that you do not have their interest at heart will only lead to distrust, disillusion and apathy towards you, both individually and collectively. I believe that we need to remember always that were there no public to serve, there would not have been a public service. Very often, members of the public are among the strongest and most vocal allies of the members of the Public Service, because they appreciate the value and virtue of the work that you do. They understand their responsibility to help develop an efficient public service if they are to benefit from policies intended to make qualitative improvements to their lives as individuals and as members of a community. As the saying goes, we are all in this together.
To develop an efficient public service, we need to build a strong central capacity for formulating and co-ordinating policy. This capacity has been described as the brains of the system, for while the Executive sets goals, it is you, the members of the Public Service that must translate them into strategies if they are to materialize. We need to develop effective delivery systems, but these will call for your loyalty and your compliance with established rules. We need motivated and competent staff to manage the affairs of the public sector; you are the lifeblood of the Executive. It has been recognized that able and dedicated staff inject energy into the public sector, while uncommitted staff stifle it. Our responsibility therefore – yours, the Executive’s and the public’s – is to work on putting mechanisms in place that will motivate you to perform well – mechanisms such as merit-based recruitment and promotion, adequate compensation, and the nurturing of a strong esprit de corps which would give you a sense of purpose and belonging, and which would impose the self-discipline that would guide you to achieving your Ministry’s or Department’s goals and objectives.
Thirteen years ago, I served as Chairperson to one of the Committees which had been set up to begin the process of Public Sector Reform. It would appear that that Reform has not been embraced either by the Executive or the Public Service itself as enthusiastically as it should have been. But if ever Public Sector Reform was needed, the time is now, in this rapidly changing world, and consequently in the changing nature of the State apparatus. You need to be dynamic rather than static, willing to make innovations and be flexible rather than be boxed-in by models of the past. Our challenge is to develop as excellent a Public Service as our small size and our limited resources will allow. We have been cautioned that good government in this the twenty-first century is not a luxury but a vital necessity for development ; that the state is not adapting rapidly enough to keep pace with the dizzying changes in markets, civil societies and global forces. Given the responsibility and the role of the Public Service in the formulation and execution of government policy and in the delivery of services to the public, I urge all of you to redouble your efforts, and help put us on the most solid foundation that you can build as we work together to ensure our country keeps pace with the changing times and adapt to the new global realities.
Happy Public Service Day.
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