Sanitise and improve Guyana’s Public Service

Dear Editor,
If I were to ask for anything in Guyana, I would ask President Ali to sanitise and improve the Guyana Public Service. The ineptness, inefficiency and unprofessionalism of this entity has been highlighted ad nauseam. Complaints of ‘come back later, fill out this form properly, more identification needed’ and a litany of excuses substitute for adept and dexterous performance.
The pervasive alleged paying of bribes to obtain simple documents seems to be the perpetual order of the day, as the public gets frustrated and enraged by such unlawful sloppiness in the workforce.
In other words, the axiom “you grease my hands and I will grease yours” has become a daily routine for many Public Servants.
Take, for instance, the Passport Office. Numerous persons are frequently turned away because, as reported in this and other media outlets, only 100 applicants are being ‘processed’ daily. Applicants are told to come back tomorrow, even if they live in Bartica or in Lethem!
Just imagine lines being formed as early as 4:00 am at the Passport Office! This is also true when one must obtain a birth or death certificate. People have reported that they had to travel to Georgetown three, four, and sometimes five times from far away to obtain a death or a birth certificate. These trips are very costly to the poor, who are struggling to survive in a country where inflation has skyrocketed to almost 35 percent.
Another problem with Public Servants of all ranks, which I would ask the President to investigate, is that they do not answer their office phones, and they do not return phone calls. And they are dishonest. If they promise to call, because very rarely do Public Servants inform the public by phone that their documents are completed and they should collect them. And it is known that the few that answer the phones are often rude, arrogant, and disrespectful to the public.
One of the moderators of GLOBESPAN TV, Dr. Asquith Rose, has stated on several occasions that most Public Servants behave as though they are the people’s bosses and not their servants, and they do not answer their phones or return phone calls.
The post-Independence Public Service was a role model for CARICOM; then it became overly politicised and bloated by past and present Governments. To obtain a burial or cremation permit, or replace an ID Card in Guyana is like fighting a war for months, if not for years, because that is the time it takes to obtain the aforementioned documents. The salient issue with Guyana’s Public Service is not only the carelessness and care-free attitude of Public Servants, but a don’t care attitude/mindset that has infected a huge segment of Public Servants. However, it is said that the improvement of any organisation must be inspired by its leaders, which fits neatly into the saying that, if you want to groom a tree, you must start at the top.
Another issue in the Public Service that needs to be addressed is the lack of courtesy and professionalism. This trait is widespread in that it exists in almost all Ministries and state agencies. Public Servants are known to radiate the aura that they are doing the public a favour, rather than doing their job, which they are paid to do. Many can be seen polishing their nails, fixing their hair, using their cell phones, or eating at their desks. Mediocrity has replaced efficiency and professionalism. Complaints against unmannerly employees, for the most part, often fall on deaf ears. With the present conundrum, it begs the question: can the public rely on the management to fix these problems, given that they have caused the problems in the first place?
Retraining and re-educating Public Servants to serve the people must be done urgently. As the situation now stands, a Black Hole phenomenon is the most appropriate description of Guyana’s Public Service.

Leyland Chitlall