Civil servant rules delayed

Implementation of the Public Service Management Law and Regulations, which was originally scheduled for 1 July, has been put back until 1 January 2007 to allow for more consultation and training for civil servants.

The announcement of the delay was first made in the Finance Committee during the Budget Meeting in May by recently retired Chief Officer of the Civil Service Colin Ross.

‘The decision was taken entirely by myself,’ he said at the time, noting, however, that the Government supported the decision.

Mr. Ross said a request for more time before the implementation of the regulations by the management team of the Cayman Islands Civil Service Association (CICSA) was a key reason for the delay.

‘It’s really that I’ve changed my mind based on the respect I have for the CISCA management team,’ he said.

The PSML is the second stage of the Cayman Islands’ Financial Management reform, which began with the passage of the Public Management and Finance Law in 2001. A Public Authorities Law will later become the third segment of the reform.

One of the most important aspects of the PSML, which will affect all 3,435 civil servants in the Cayman Islands, is that it will allow for the decentralising of personnel management decisions to civil service managers. The Law also allows for performance-based civil servant assessments and performance incentives.

Although the current Public Service Management Law states the date of 1 July for implementation, an amending Bill will be brought to the House in the meeting that starts later this month seeking to delay the implementation until 1 January 2007.

New Chief Officer of the Civil Service Peter Gough said a number of steps will be taken over the next six months in advance of implementation of the law.

The first step – which actually follows an extensive consultative phase – includes a visit by a Human Resources Audit Unit headed up by Deputy Chief Officer (Public Sector Management) Ian Fenton.

During the audit phase, Mr. Fenton and two of his colleagues will visit all government departments to meet with human resource managers or other designated managers who will be in charge of instructing the rest of their department’s staff on the new law. Each department had until 3 July to appoint that person.

The appointees will be given the newly developed Policy and Procedures Manual for the Portfolio of the Civil Services’ to use as a guide in establishing a similar manual for their own department.

‘There could be variations in each of the different departments,’ Mr. Fenton said.

In addition the HR Audit Unit will discuss recruitment and other procedures.

The departmental visits started last week and are scheduled to be completed by next week. Departments will have until 8 September to complete their customised policy and procedures manual.

A more extensive briefing and training of managers phase will begin after that, to be completed by 2 October.

To help inform civil servants of the changes, seven booklets will be produced and distributed with pay slips during the last quarter of this year.

In addition, a new civil service employment agreement will be established by the end of October.

Mr. Fenton said initial feed back on the implications of the PSML has been mixed.

‘Some people are fully on board, and some people are very threatened by it,’ he said. ‘Most people are ain the middle.

‘Most see a chance to have a set of tools they can use to deliver their services more efficiently.’

Mr. Gough said it should be expected for some people to be resistant to the change.

‘It is a hugely different way of doing business [than it has been],’ he said.

‘Any reform of this magnitude is threatening, especially when you’re holding people accountable for the first time.’

Mr. Gough said the amending Bill that will come to the House in the next meeting will also contain ‘some minor tweaking’ of the existing law. For instance, there will be a section added that will allow for the rehiring of a civil servant sent overseas for training to come back and resume their career without advertising the position again.

One more significant change deals with the financial performance incentives originally contemplated in the law. It was at one time proposed that an employee that received two unsatisfactory performance ratings in a row could have had his or her salary cut by ten per cent the following year.

The performance provisions with respect to pay, however, will not come into effect until 2009. The new Bill would also eliminate the negative incentives, but still offer varying incentives for high performance.

For instance, a civil servant that is assessed the best rating of 5 on a scale of 1 though 5, will receive a performance-related bonus equal to 10 per cent of their wages or salary; a civil servant assessed at a 4 rating would receive a five per cent bonus; and a civil servant assessed a 3 rating will receive a 2.5 per cent bonus.

A civil servant assessed a 2 rating would receive no performance bonus, while a civil servant that is assessed a 1 rating would not only receive no performance bonus, but would also be advised in writing that their performance is unacceptable and that if it does not improve in a reasonable period of time, dismissal action would be taken under the provisions of the PSML.

Mr. Gough said several safeguards are embedded in the new law to ensure there are no abuses to the system.

One such safeguard that will be established is a Civil Service Appeals Commission, Mr. Gough said.

With the Pubic Service Commission ceasing to have a function under the new law, it is possible that some of its members might be recruited for the Appeals Commission, he said.

Although it may take a few years for all civil servants to take to the new system, Mr. Gough thinks it offers many benefits, including the ability to help retain talented people because they will be able to see a clear path to the next level.

Mr. Fenton pointed out that studies have shown that a well-run government can add as much as two per cent to a country’s Gross Domestic Product.

Both men believe the PSML will provide the tools to help civil servants, and especially managers, deliver their services more efficiently.

‘We just have to make sure those tools are used,’ he said.