Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Fitzgerald Hinds yesterday cautioned the Service Commission Department (SCD) that formulating its own Service Commission in Tobago can present severe challenges for the island.
Hinds raised the issue during a Joint Select Committee (amendment) on the Tobago Self-Government Bill chaired by Camille Robinson-Regis who sought expert opinion of the SCD on the proposed establishment of a Tobago civil service and service commission.
The objective of the JSC, Robinson-Regis said, was to do what was best for the unitary state of T&T.
Attending the JSC at Tower D, Port-of-Spain, was the Tobago Forum of Political Parties, which included Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles and leader of Platform of Truth Hochoy Charles.
“When we looked at it initially we were of the view that there seemed to be...or there may have been some issues as to how it would operate most effectively. But we want this to operate smoothly,” Robinson-Regis said.
It was revealed that in 2009 the SCD opened an office in Tobago.
However, SCP’s acting deputy director of personnel administration Marcia Pile O’ Brady stated that the office had to close its doors due to the economic downturn, while they had had no records and IT service.
Hinds questioned if the establishment of the two entities would meet the expectations of Tobagonians.
“I suspect it will not. Because the explanatory note of this bill which reflects the ambitions and desires expressed from the Tobago Forum says in the explanatory note, among other things, that there should be a Tobago island government, a Tobago Service Commission and a Tobago Civil Service.”
Hinds said these matters can be very emotive. He said the SCD’s move to set up an office resulted in issues, noting that such problems also exist in Trinidad.
“I am raising that to demonstrate that it is now accepted in T&T... and this formulation of the Service Commission has its own challenges. The concept of the Service Commission has presented our country with severe challenges from the very start and they persist to this very day.”
Hind said to contemplate replicating a Service Commission in Tobago may be difficult knowing that the one in T&T has been problematic and under review.
“Because we are going to be repeating something that there is a general feeling has not been serving this country in the way it ought to or it was expected to when it was established in 1962.”
Hinds said Constitutional lawyers would have to work out a better way of administering Tobago’s affairs, given the lessons we have learnt from the Service Commission in T&T.
He argued that deep thought was required in going forward, stating if this was not done we would create long-term problems for T&T. Robinson-Regis agreed with Hinds that the Service Commission’s operations needed to be examined.
Giving his views, Kelvin Charles said what has emerged “was the possibility for the creation of a Service Commission” which would require consequential amendments to the regulations and legislation. He said they would propose a mechanism to modernise the THA’s human resources.
Notwithstanding the current flaws that exist in the Service Commission, Charles said: “We feel very strongly in respect of administering the affairs of the island... that if this is the best model at this time, then we would need to have that model.”