Issue of political interference raised in parliament

Over the two-day debate and discussions on the Bill for the Public Service (Amendment) Act, which deals with the appointments and dismissals of the Directors General, members of parliament from both sides of the House, argued on the principles and the merit of the Bill, introduced by the Prime Minister Charlot Salwai.

MPs even gave examples, personal experiences relating to the position and posts, and appointments of a director general.

Much comments also centered on the issues of political interferences, family connections, islandism, wantokism and friends, which the MPs blame as becoming real problems, not only in the appointments of directors general but also in other public posts including directors, civil servants at large and Government Statutory Board Members and positions in Commissions.

The discussions over the past two days, touched government departments, ministries, organizations and even level at the MPs themselves.

The Leader of the Opposition and Prime Minister levelled blames at one another for past positions.

Other MPs also voiced concerns and called on the Speaker to re-direct discussions and debate to the principles of the Bill, because, one MP said a remark made by the Prime Minister was uncalled for, while the Prime Minister also made remarks on MPs who were then in Government positions.

The Prime Minister who tabled the Bill, introduced some amendments to the Bill which after two days of debate on pros and cons of the Bill, was eventually passed by parliament yesterday morning but without the support of the Opposition.

The Explanatory Note, to the Bill states:

Appointment of director generals

Items 1 to 10 provides that the Public Service Commission (the Commission) is to appoint and remove director generals after complying with the existing process provided under section 17A.

The Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission will no longer be involved in the appointment or removal of director generals. All terms and conditions of appointment of director generals will be determined by the Commission and all matters relating to remuneration of director generals will be determined by the Government Remuneration Tribunal after consultation with the Commission. These items also allow the Commission to re-advertise a position of director general if it is not satisfied with the applicants who have applied for the position.

The items also provide that a director general may be terminated by the Commission for serious misconduct as defined under his or her contract.

Directors placed on contract

Items 11 to 12 provide that all appointments made by the Public Service Commission to the position of director are not to be done under a contract for a period of 3 years. The Commission is to conduct performance appraisals annually for each director and is to re-appoint a person as a director only if it is satisfied with the performance of that person.

Discipline of director generals and directors

Items 13, 14 and 15 provide for amendments to the process of disciplining director generals and directors. Items 13 provides that the secretary of the Commission has now been included as a complainant for the purposes of section 19B. Item 14 reduces the period given for responding to allegations made against a director general or director as well as the period taken to make a decision after receiving a complaint.

Resignation before contesting elections

Item 16 provides that a public servant who intends to contest an election, to Parliament, to a Municipal Council or a Provincial Government Council must resign from the public service within 2 years before the election year.

Transitional provisions

Item 17 provides that persons occupying the position of director general immediately before the commencement of this Act are deemed to have been appointed in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

Item 18 provides that persons occupying the position of director immediately before the commencement of this Act are to continue to be employed as directors for 6 months commencing form the date on which this Act comes into force.

After which they are deemed to be terminated by the Commission and are entitled to severance payment, redundancy payment of other entitlements.

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