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Temporary appointments at Service Commission raise questions
A very alarming situation exists at the Statutory Authorities’ Service Commission (SASC), according to chairman Steve Alvarez, when he appeared before a Joint Select Committee (JSC) of Parliament yesterday. Alvarez said two of the SASC’s staff members have been working in temporary positions for over two decades and have been unable to access loans as a result.
One of them, who worked for 20 years, is now being made a permanent worker, while the other has been a temporary worker for 22 years. “I hope this matter will be addressed shortly,” Alvarez said. “I can’t say I am happy with any officer acting in a temporary position for 22 years.”
This prompted Government Senator David Abdulah, a JSC member, to remark that the SASC will be seen as advising state authorities on the appropriate way to deal with appointments while its own house is not in order. Abdulah said it is a matter that needs to be dealt with urgently.
Alvarez agreed that this situation could negatively affect the SASC, which was established to ensure transparency and equity in employment practices in state enterprises. JSC chairman Subhas Ramkhelawan said he hoped the SASC undertakes to correct the situation, and raised the issue of the relevance of the SASC.
The commission was established in 1967 and was empowered to appoint officers and to transfer, promote, remove and discipline them. It has responsibility for 13 statutory authorities, four municipal corporations, the Agricultural Society, the Zoological Society, the Cocoa & Coffee Industry Board, the National Lotteries Board, the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Committee, the St Dominic’s Children’s Home, the St Mary’s Children’s Home, the St Jude’s School for Girls and the St Michael’s School for Boys.
The new commission was sworn in on March 14, 2011. Noting that it was a rather disparate group that came under its purview, Ramkhelawan said the children’s homes could have been placed under the Ministry of Child Development, Gender and Youth Affairs, and the zoological and agricultural societies under the Food Production ministry.
“There is no sugar industry again,” he said, considering where to put the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Committee. “Where is the relevance of the SASC?” Ramkhelawan asked. Alvarez said it is the political authorities who have to decide under which commission to place different authorities.
He insisted that, perhaps more than ever before, there is a definite need for the SASC and there may even be a need to expand its role. He said one of its major functions is to protect workers from nepotism by their employers. Finding suitable staff for the children’s homes is another important function of the SASC, Alvarez pointed out.
Told by JSC member and Arima MP Rodger Samuel that the SASC really has no teeth, Alvarez agreed that its powers were limited by old legislation. Prakash Ramadhar, Legal Affairs Minister, said, “You have responsibility without authority. Let’s see where we can put some teeth.”
Chandresh Sharma, Local Government Minister, added, “We would not want it to appear you are a toothless tiger. “You can bring the areas of concern to us and we can lend assistance.”
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