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CPO cries out for staff at JSC
The Chief Personnel Officer (CPO), Beresford Riley, has made a sterling plea for vacancies at the Office of the CPO to be filled with urgency telling a Joint Select Committee (JSC) yesterday that vacancies at his office are more than 40 per cent and it is impacting the work which the CPO’s office has to do to fill vacancies in the public service. “I am crying out for staff now,” he added.
The JSC on Social Services and Public Administration met with Riley and permanent secretaries from the Ministries of Public Administration, Labour and Finance when concerns were raised about a parallel public service operating in the country, with a significant percentage of contract workers working alongside permanent public service employees because vacancies in various ministries are not being filled, and the agencies charged with filling those vacancies are themselves severely under-staffed.
The committee heard that a significant percentage of the public service is contract workers and in five ministries alone the figure is 2,793 .
At the Ministry of Finance, a significant number of contract workers are employed at the Inland Revenue Division.
Permanent secretary of the ministry Michelle Durham-Kissoon said this was because vacancies have not been filled and personnel were “essential for us to ramp up the revenue.”
She said there is also a significant number of vacancies for tax officers and again contract officers were engaged with the objective of ramping up revenue.
Explaining the delay in filling vacancies, Riley told the committee that he too is hamstrung saying “the CPO’s Office is drastically understaffed.”
Riley put the percentage of vacancies at the CPO’s office at “41 per cent for the core technical officers, just over half of the positions are filled.”
He explained that at both the level of the technical staff and the Human Resource officers, who provide the necessary support to determine the terms and conditions of employment, “it is woefully inadequate.”
Asked by committee chairman Dhanayshar Mahabir what were the constraints to getting the full complement of staff required, Riley said, “The constraints essentially would lie with the Service Commissions Department.”
According to Riley, there was a “catch 22 situation with respect to human resource management in the public service.”
He explained that all of the central agencies involved in addressing staffing issues in the public service are themselves understaffed. “The Office of the CPO and the Service Commission and Public Administration are understaffed, how do you break the deadlock?”
Riley contended that because of the “importance of these agencies to the public service the logical thing to do is to focus on staffing these agencies. If we are understaffed we can’t help.”
He said if the hands of the agencies charged with employing personnel “are tied behind our backs, then the rest of the service will go limping along.”
Declaring that he was “crying out for staff now,” the CPO made a case for his office to be treated “special because of my importance to the rest of the public service. It is not a self-serving or personal issue,” he said explaining that when people complain “about the length of time it takes to get contracts and point fingers at us, if we understaffed, we can’t help,” he said.
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