'Few consequences' for civil service slackers

Duncan-Taylor-Cayman-Islands-Government-Lead

Reflecting on his three-and-a-half year posting in the Cayman Islands, Governor Duncan Taylor said Thursday that he wished his office could have done more to improve the performance and services provided by local government entities.  

“At the moment, we have a system in place in the public service and civil service where there are few, if any, consequences if you’re not really performing and other people have to pick up the slack,” Mr. Taylor said during what seems likely to be his final press briefing at Government House. Mr. Taylor is due to leave Grand Cayman next Wednesday evening for the UK.  

The outgoing governor said some improvements have been made in recent years on the issue by Deputy Governor Franz Manderson’s administration, including the requirement that performance agreements be put in place for all civil servants. However, he admitted having the performance agreements with workers and enforcing them are two different matters.  

“If your performance is very poor, there should be some consequence,” Mr. Taylor said. “You may be moved, at the extreme you could be made redundant. If those appraisals are robust … you’ll be in a better position to bid for a different job you wish to move to and so on. It’ll take some time … but in the long-term, it’s an important agenda.”  

Mr. Taylor said the size of the civil service and the wider public sector, including government-owned companies and statutory authorities, was second tier in importance as far as he was concerned.  

“It’s more important that you deliver services effectively and efficiently than to look simply at the size of the civil service or the public service,” he said. “Overall, the civil service grew rapidly from 2000 to about 2008 and since then has been broadly flat.”  

Employment figures revealed recently in a human resources report noted that the entire public sector employed 5,901 people as of 30 June, 2012. That included 3,639 people working in what is generally termed the “core government” service and 2,262 working for statutory authorities and government-owned companies.  

Compared to 30 June, 2011, that’s an increase of 91 employees. In mid-2011, there were 5,810 people employed within the entire public sector; 3,619 in the civil service/core government and 2,191 for the authorities and companies.  

“Seventy-eight per cent of the [91 employee] increase [came] from the statutory authorities and government-owned companies, and 22 per cent [came] from core government,” according to the human resources report for 2012.  

This theme of keeping the civil service/central government in check while at the same time seeing massive growth within the other public sector entities has been repeated steadily over the past decade, the HR report showed.  

Governor Taylor revealed Thursday that he’d harboured concerns “for a while” about the statutory authorities and government-owned companies and that the newly elected government certainly shared it.  

“We don’t have a supervisory mechanism in place or enough accountability, let’s say, for statutory authorities and government companies,” he said. “The government has now commissioned a paper on that to look at how we might tighten up accountability and transparency.”  

The number of employees within both core government and outside authorities is still a concern, Mr. Taylor said. However, the manner in which that issue is addressed seems less clear.  

“There are ways in which you can shrink the size of the civil service, for example, you can privatise elements of the core civil service or indeed the public service,” he said. “That’s something that the government will consider. For me, it’s a challenging thing to do in a very small jurisdiction because, for a successful privatisation, you need a really effective and robust regulator.  

“That’s not to say you can’t do it, but you’d need to think very carefully about how you would achieve that.”  

For instance, one solution could be to privatise the current functions of the National Roads Authority, the governor said.  

“That would, at a stroke, reduce the numbers of civil servants and would appear to reduce the size of the civil service,” Mr. Taylor said. “But I think you have to think through very carefully the costs and benefits of doing that.”  

Mr. Taylor said the deputy governor’s four-year plan to reduce 360 people from the core government service employment rolls is being handled through attrition, i.e. people retiring, leaving jobs for others or through contract non-renewals.  

“We do want to bear down and try to improve efficiency and reduce the cost of the civil service by trimming the numbers,” he said. 

Duncan-Taylor-Cayman-Islands-Government-Story

Governor Duncan Taylor
Photo: Chris Court