Judge blocks Energy Ministry

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A High Court Judge has granted an injunction blocking the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs from filling several vacancies in the Ministry.

Justice Margaret Mohammed granted the injunction to the Public Service Association (PSA) on Tuesday which restrains permanent secretaries in five Ministries from taking steps to implement a decision announced by Public Administration Minister, Maxie Cuffie, to give permanent secretaries in ministries and the Office of the Prime Minister the power to hire and recruit certain classes of public officers.

The PSA is contending that the decision of the Permanent Secretary to fill at least eight vacancies in that ministry, will be contrary to law and the regulations which govern the hiring process in the Public Service.

The positions which the permanent secretary will not be able to fill for now are chemical engineer I/II, geophysicist I/II geologist /II petroleum engineer I/II, petroleum chemist, petroleum inspector, geologist assistant and petroleum engineering assistant.

The PSA intends to argue that to advertise the vacancies without consultation with the recognized majority union for public servants is in breach of the PSA’s legitimate expectation to be consulted, having regard to the provisions of Section 14(1)(c) of the Civil Service Act and a 1973 memorandum issued by the chief personnel officer to all permanent secretaries and heads of departments in the public service, which establish a joint consultative committee to provide for communication and consultation between management and staff in the public service.

The PSA, which represents over 80,000 public servants, contends it was the duty of the chief personnel officer to establish procedures of consultation and negotiation between the personnel department and the recognised union.

The union acknowledged while the Public Service Commission (PSC) can delegate certain functions to permit permanent secretaries to give notice of vacancies, advertise and receive applications to fill a vacancy, there must be consultation with the recognized union.

According to the PSA’s application for judicial review, there has been no consultation to date to advertise vacancies in the energy ministry.

The PSA stressed that the PSC was the only constitutional body charged with responsibility for recruitment and appointment of public servants and any delegation of statutory power cannot surrender or arrogate the responsibility to a public officer without the necessary checks and balances in place.

According to the union, the raison d’etre of the PSC was to insulate the public service from political interference. 

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JUSTICE MARGARET MOHAMMED 

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