EDITORIAL: THE MISSING INGREDIENTS
Recent administrative decisions, which impact on the management of the Anguilla Public Service, suggest that some key ingredients essential to ensuring the effective and efficient functioning of the Anguilla Public Service are missing. The recent decisions, which have resulted in at least four permanent secretaries reporting to two ministers, were the subject of comment in an earlier editorial but bears further consideration. This new arrangement is unlikely to promote efficiency and effectiveness in the operations of the public service. While such an arrangement may have existed for a brief time before, in Anguilla, it was the result of what may be described as extenuating circumstances which existed during the last administration led by Mr. Hubert Hughes. Such extenuating circumstances do not exist today.
The difference in situations is also stark when one considers that the recent decisions have resulted in a subject matter being placed within one ministry, but the permanent secretary of that Ministry is not accorded responsibility for that subject. Instead, a permanent secretary with substantial responsibilities in a different ministry, and who is situated in a different ministry, has been given responsibility for that subject. The situation is further compounded as the permanent secretary who has been accorded responsibility for the subject, which is not part of the ministry in which he is situated, is generally accepted to have less knowledge and experience in that subject than the permanent secretary situated in the ministry with responsibility for that subject.
The general reaction following these most recent decisions has been one of confusion and disappointment. Confusion because many persons genuinely have difficulty comprehending the new reporting lines, and disappointing because persons expected those in charge of the administration of the public service to make decisions which are likely to promote, rather than diminish, the effectiveness and efficiency of the public service. We are left with no choice but to ask – Why is the likely erosion in the effectiveness and efficiency of the public service, as a result of recent decisions, not obvious to the relevant decision makers?
I believe the answers can be found in an examination of the subject matter of two previous editorials. The first is the editorial of 27th January, 2017, which was titled ‘Maturity in Public Office’ and sought to identify the attributes of maturity required in public office. It was noted that:
“Maturity is reflected in a number of ways, some of which are considered more significant than others, in the context of public life. Some of the qualities of maturity, which come to mind in the context of public office, are the ability to be calm, peaceful and rational rather than desperate, frantic or irrational; being flexible and open as opposed to being resistant, controlling and unreasonable; the ability to see and prioritise the big picture rather than being driven by one’s own desires and ego; and the ability to seek guidance before acting, even when clearly authorised to act.”
An examination of the implications of the recent decisions suggests that several, if not all, of the attributes described above were missing during the deliberations surrounding the change in ministerial portfolios and the assignment of responsibilities to permanent secretaries. While there is always the potential for some resentment to surface during the decision making process, this is expected to be countered by ‘Speaking Truth to Power’. This was the subject of the editorial of 17th February, 2017. It was observed that:
“Societies, communities, families and businesses all have power structures which accord greater power to some than to others. Persons may command political power, economic power, financial power or administrative power. The exercise of such power, if unchecked, can be a very dangerous thing. In recognition of this, structures are usually established which require or afford other persons or institutions an opportunity to influence those who possess greater power. Additionally, persons at the pinnacle of power usually solicit the input of subordinates before making decisions, or subordinates by virtue of existing structures, are required to provide input. The quality of the input provided can have a significant impact, with resulting long-term implications, on the decision of the person exercising power.”
Was there a failure to speak truth to power, which contributed to the implementation of decisions with the clear potential to reduce effectiveness and efficiency in the public service? Many of us may find some comfort if this was indeed the case, as it is felt that someone at the pinnacle of the authority structure in the public service must be cognisant of the potential negative implications of these decisions for the service. Such comfort is short-lived, however, when we recognise that whatever the motivation, if an authority figure recognised the potential shortcomings of the decisions being made and failed to ‘speak truth to power’, then he or she failed in his or her duties as a leader in the Anguilla Public Service. As recognised in the editorial – “The exercise of this principle is essential to the effective and proper functioning of individuals and institutions holding authority in Anguilla.”
Whatever the reason, there is clearly a basis for the conclusion that certain ingredients, which are essential to the decision making process, were missing when consideration was being given to the changes in ministerial portfolios and the assignment of responsibilities to permanent secretaries. In this instance, those ingredients appear to be the exercise of maturity in public office and the willingness to speak truth to power. Hopefully, these apparently missing ingredients will soon be found, as Anguilla cannot properly engage in the exercise of good governance in the absence of such essential ingredients.