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Civil servants call for halt to Modernisation Project

The Jamaica Gleaner, 30 March 2000

CIVIL SERVANTS yesterday called for a halt to the implementation of the Public Sector Modernisation Project (PSMP), primarily aimed at converting 17 government departments into profit-making executive agencies, until the programme is reviewed.

At a mass meeting at their Jacisera Park headquarters in Kingston, they called on their union, the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA), to urge the Government to halt the process, until the four departments already convertedinto executive status were evaluated and their viability and efficiency assessed.

First vice-president of the JCSA, Wayne Jones, said after the meeting that the Association would be writing to the head of the project, Cabinet Secretary Dr. Carlton Davis, on the workers' demands.

However, Dr. Davis has already been discussing the matter with the JCSA and, in fact, a meeting had been tentatively scheduled between JCSA's executives and public officers involved with the project, expected to be held within the next two weeks.

The civil servants passed a number of resolutions at yesterday's meeting, one of which called for the freeze pending an evaluation. Others dealt with the fact that the JCSA has not been allowed an active role in the process of modernisation.

"The workers want the Government sit down with the union and assess the situation. We want to know, for example, what are the implications of the mergers," Mr. Jones said, referring to Government's intentions to merge a number of departments, including Survey and Titles, Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA), Town and Planning Department and Land Development and Utilisation to create more executive agencies.

Mr. Jones said that while the JCSA has been supportive of the modernisation programme, they are not sure that all is well with the agencies already given executive status.

The PSMP is supported by financing from both the Japanese Government and the World Bank and is being implemented by the Office of the Cabinet at a cost of some $2.2 billion.

Among its aims are to: rationalise the size and scope of the public sector; improve the quality of service offered by departments under the project; enhance policy making capabilities in Ministries under the project; and to strengthen Government's control and external audit functions.

Targets include: the conversion of 17 Government departments to executive agencies, which would require them to become profitable; to strengthen the core of two ministries; strengthen the Contractor General's and Auditor General's Departments and procurement units in ministries.

Four departments have already been converted to executive agencies. These are - the Registrar General's and Administrator General's Departments, the Registrar of Companies and the Management Institute for National Development(MIND).

For the coming financial year, 2000/2001, the Government plans to spend a further $375 million on the project, as well as its sub-programme, Improvement in Public Sector Management (IPSM), in a number of areas including: refurbishing the Administrator General's Department; providing consultancy support for a number of departments; training staff at the Registrar of Companies; as well as drafting the Executive Agency Act and develop a pension plan for the agencies.