Performance appraisal, compensation in the public service

Dear Editor,
Reference is made to EB John’s letter in another section of the media on Saturday 21 May, titled: “Merit compensation in the public service was aborted by the last regime” which adverted to mine in the various local newspapers recently on issues relating to performance related pay.
I do not wish to get into the ‘political’ aspects of John’s presentation; indeed I believe that it is improper for professional Human Resources Management (HRM) practitioners, be they officers or managers or directors or consultants to project any political bias, no matter how incidental, when publicly addressing HRM issues or even individual cases.
John’s letter seems to suggest that because I did not actually work in the Guyana Public Service, especially in the colonial era as he did, then, ipso facto, I was not qualified to comment or advise on matters relevant thereto. With all due respect to my friend and senior colleague, I wish to remind him that while I might have been “estranged” (to use his language) from the Guyana Public Service, I have, as a matter of fact, worked in and held senior Human Resource Management positions in the Canadian Public Service as well as the United Nations, two very large, ‘state-of-the-art’ and progressive Public Service organisations in the under-developed, developing and developed world.
Additionally, I have had significant recent involvement and experiences as a consultant in HRM within the Guyana Public Service which afforded me some substantive familiarity with its old, recent and current HRM policies and practices.
I am also painfully aware of the “manipulation” of the so-called “Merit system” with its resultant negatives in the critical areas of promotion, demotion and termination.
In any event, my knowledge and experiences of what obtains in the aforesaid ‘Public Services’ post-date John’s experience in the old colonial Public Service of British Guiana; furthermore, one does not have to be working or to have worked in any public service organisation to know what goes on in such ‘bureaucracies’ and to have a good appreciation of the relevant pros and cons.
In these regards, I am rather surprised by John’s apparent pre-occupation with “The pro forma and even completed documentation …” as he put it, in the British Guiana/Guyana’s old, old system when the world has gone ahead with various methodologies that are reflective of new ‘human systems’ and modus operandi; at the most obvious, elementary level we have the advent and advances of the whole new world of IT which naturally calls into question any slavish adherence to the distant past, as some colleagues who are anchored in the last century, are wont to do.
Finally, I respectfully suggest to John that if he were to re-read my referenced letter, he would see that I am not averse to performance-related pay and benefits but, like him, I also cautioned about the dire need for much ‘preparatory work’, including the training and retraining of which he wrote.
And, having regard to the considerable time factor implicit in the pre-required substantive training and attitudinal changes, especially if such preparatory training must await the setting up of the anticipated Public Service Training College, we cannot ignore the pragmatic issues which are exacerbated by the declared expectation of immediate negotiations with the union etc).
In the final analysis, the optimal position might be a combination of both ‘across-the-board increases’ to take care of inflationary factors, dilution of purchasing power, the expectations of the public servants which have been raised by governmental comments etc, while the discussions proceed with the unions on performance-based increases to take care of differential individual performances. (As I hinted in my earlier letter, that is what we did when I successfully led the multiyear, multiunion negotiations for DDL some years ago).
In the currently evolving situation with the Guyana Public Service, the Government seems to be facing the proverbial ‘can of worms’, which, as I also said in my referenced letter, would require patient engagement, much goodwill and less historical hang-ups on all sides.

Nowrang Persaud