The law passed this week triggering a salary increase for public servants is a “horrendous”, deeply flawed, “cut-and-paste” document in need of an urgent fix, Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn has charged.
He has even taken the dramatic turn of suggesting the Government take the rarely-employed step of firing the “inept” civil servants responsible for drafting the Public Service (General) Order, 2018.
“This is a cut and paste document. This is a draft. It is a horrendous draft too. I don’t know who put this in front of the Prime Minister but they should go home,” said Franklyn as he joined debate on the resolution in the Senate on Wednesday.
“Having signed this, somebody’s head should roll and I am very serious about it because this is the kind of inept work that should not be coming from the public service,” insisted Franklyn.
He spoke just after Leader of Government Business Senator Dr Jerome Walcott introduced the legislation with liberal praise of public servants for their hard work and contribution to the country’s development over the years despite not having had a pay increase for several years.
Franklyn, who said he “spent a lot of time” examining the document, insisted that he had some “serious difficulties” with it.
The main concern, he pointed out, was that while the document made references to the Public Service (General) Order, 2008 and the Civil Establishment (Qualifications) Order 2001, these had been replaced in 2016 with the new all-encompassing Public Service Act.
“I don’t know if this is deliberate or somebody trying to trick the Prime Minister or what. I suspect it might be something to trick the prime minister . . . So if we pass this Order now in this form we are going back to the situation that it was prior to 2016,” he told Senate colleagues.
But Franklyn failed to make mention of resolution 13 of the 2018 Order, which states that the “Public Service (General) Order 2016 is revoked”.
In relation to the across-the-board five per cent pay rise, Franklyn suggested that the increase for the public servants at the bottom of the pay scale should be higher than that of those at the top.
“This salary revision I understand will cost the government $16 million. There was no harm in juggling those figures so that the people at the bottom . . . could get a little bit more and the people at the top could get a little bit less,” he said.
He estimated that lower-paid public servants would only get $96.84 and lose about half of it in new taxes, while those at the top will receive over $600 as a result of the five-per cent increase.
Franklyn also took issue with the hiring of Charles Jong as Director of Communications-designate to the Government, charging that the appointment would be illegal as she had no power to make public service appointments.
“If you look at this Order under the Prime Minister’s Office, the Director of Communications is a public service post and the only [person] who can appoint people in the public service is the Governor General acting under the advice of the Public Service Commission,” said Franklyn.
“So somebody getting paid without lawful authority, somebody make an appointment without such lawful authority as well. Fix it. It looks bad, it is wrong and it is illegal,” insisted Franklyn.
Pointing out that Jong worked for the BLP in the last general election and did a very good job, Franklyn argued that “his reward cannot be a job in the public service”, while adding that post of Director of Communications should be advertised and people interviewed for the post.
Rising on a point of order, Senator Lucille Moe insisted that Jong was “not in a government post” and was instead “a consultant in a consultant post in the prime minister’s office.”
“His title is that of communication and social media, but it is not as an appointed post in Government it is as a consultant,” she insisted.
That explanation did nothing to quell Franklyn’s concern, who immediately said “thank you for the explanation but it is nonsense”.
Saying that it was a matter of technicality, Franklyn said people could be appointed in an established post in the public service permanently or as a consultant and given a contract.
“So he is in a public service post. He is in an established post and I don’t care what you call it, somebody misled you [into] believing that is what you can do. You can’t do it that way,” Franklyn said, while insisted that Jong should then “be paid by the Barbados Labour Party and not by the Government of Barbados”.