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Towards A Genuine Meritocracy
The matter of the controversy surrounding the Security Intelligence Agency (SIA) and the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) and the fallout consequent upon the appointment of a director of the SSA is but the most recent appointment in the public sector which has been made without properly established criteria being put in place to enable a transparent appointment to be made. It is accepted that the SIA, unlike the SSA, was an illegal entity in that its coming into being was not by way of an Act of Parliament or any statutory provision.
Indeed, it seems clear that the SIA, although financed from the resources of the State, was, in effect, a private security entity. In the circumstances, the staff of the SIA had no legal basis for its existence and its dismissal, not-withstanding the possible appointment of members of its staff to positions in other organisations for which they happen to be qualified, was a logical and desirable course of action. With respect to this particular episode, a few poignant questions arise:
Why was the deputy director of the SSA delegated or instructed to submit a recommendation, even although for an interim six-month period, knowing full well that such an appointee was likely to become her senior member of staff? Perhaps she deserves some sympathy.
From whom did the request come for a recommendation for an apparently handpicked preferred appointee?
n Why did the acting President, if he did not do so, not seek clarification as to whether the appointment was for a director of the outgoing SIA or of the SSA, as appears from the controversy surrounding the signing of the in- strument of appointment? Had he raised the issue and warned against the action contemplated, the outcome might have been different.
Why did some ministers not adhere to the principle of individual ministerial responsibility rather than engage willy-nilly in making pronouncements on such a sensitive matter which lies outside their portfolios, as gazetted?
Is it because the recommendation for the appointment was approved by the Cabinet and there- fore attracted Cabinet responsibility? I am sure Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar knows what ought to be done in this regard. It is in these circumstances that the appointment of a former employee of the “illegal” SIA as director of the SSA becomes curi- ous. However, the process of this appointment is not unlike countless which have been made by previous administrations with preference being given to the “old-boy network” and the “who- you-know” syndrome over merit and ability. The process of redeployment of staff upon amalgamation of staffs of state organisations is nothing new. One recalls the formation of a single body, the Industrial and Tourism Development Company, I believe, covering the former Industrial Development Corporation and the Tourism Division. Then there have been organisations, eg the PUC/RIC, where a change in the proposed modus operandi has been such as to necessitate a change in staff configuration.
And what of completely new bodies, eg the UTT, where the public perception is that recruitment of some personnel at all levels might not have been carried out with the due openness and transparency which ought to have been a feature in an organisation of this nature? Of even greater fundamental import has been the situation regarding the upper echelons of the Public Service where the possible veto of the Prime Minister looms large; not forgetting appointments in the statutory authorities and the special purpose companies (so-called), where the hidden hand of ministerial direction might come into vogue. The above are but some of the issues which the situation in respect of the SIA/SSA brings to mind. It is perhaps no exaggeration to observe that the appointment at the SSA is but a reflection of the general covert corruption in many areas of national life and brings to the fore a realisation of the need for a culture based on meritocracy not only within the state sector but also in the private sector and even in private organisations as well. Indeed, it is here that every effort ought to be directed rather than continuing the spurious attempts aimed at allocating blame. I venture to advise that “those who live in glass houses ought not to throw stones.”
Errol OC Cupid
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