Leader of the opposition Godwin Friday has spoken out against the decision of the government to appeal the Dec. 19, 2018 High Court ruling that the Public Service Commission (PSC) broke the law regarding promotion of public servants.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who has ministerial responsibility for the public service, told the budget debate this month that there are five grounds for appeal.
But the opposition leader told lawmakers that the matter is of great public interest and the government’s decision to appeal will continue, well into the future, the problems that triggered the lawsuit.
“… there are myriad things that were outlined in that judgment that even the head of Public Service Commission acknowledged. So all of these things are going to be frozen until the appeal is done whenever?” Friday said.
The development comes even as the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union has said that it will sue the government over the way in which teachers are promoted within the service.
High Court judge Justice Esco Henry has found that the PSC failed to comply with specific Public Service Regulations in respect of the non-promotion of five public officers during their respective periods in the public service of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Public Service Union had brought the case against the PSC on behalf of the public servants, who had been overlooked for promotion, in one case, for 28 years.
Gonsalves told Parliament that the appeal was filed on Jan. 31, with the first ground being that the judge “erred in law and misdirected herself when she found that Regulation 18(1) imposes statutory duty” on the PSC to ensure that all vacancies within the service are advertised either by circular or in the official gazette.
Justice Henry erred and/or misdirected herself in her interpretation of the law and found that regulation 18(2) mandates the advertisement of vacancies within the civil service, even where the post is filled externally, the prime minister told lawmakers.
He said the judge erred or misdirected herself when she ruled that the seniority lists were not disclosed in accordance with Regulation 20 in that she failed to appreciate or accept that the list has evolved into an [electronic] format which was constantly updated”.
During the trial, chair of the PSC, Cecil “Blazer” Williams, by his own admission, accepted that the PSC failed to comply with the Court’s order for disclosure of the seniority lists.
Gonsalves further told parliament that Justice Henry erred or misdirected herself in her interpretation of Regulation 19 and 27 of the public service regulations.
He said: “… she did not consider that the public service commission depends on the relevant ministries or departments of the public service to provide the necessary information on appraisals upon which it must act and thus, accordingly, has performed its functions based upon what was presented by those functionings”.
Justice Henry ordered the Public Service Commission “to establish and implement forthwith and maintain an efficient, transparent and effective performance appraisal and promotion regime within the public service, (including robust and functional monitoring and corrective mechanisms) in accordance with the stipulations in Regulations 18, 19, 20 and 27 of the Public Service Regulations”.
But Gonsalves said that the judge “did not consider or sufficiently consider that the existing law provides for such a system and that the Public Service Commission is mandated to comply with the law, which it has”.
In her ruling, Justice Henry said that the PSC ‘failed to observe principles of fairness, transparency and objectivity in exercising its functions under Regulation 19 of
Public Service Regulations” in respect of promotions of the public servants who testified in the case.
They were Agnes Llewellyn, Joel Poyer, Kejo Peters, Conroy Daniel and Elroy Boucher, president of the PSU.
The court found that the five “have been eligible during their respective periods of service in the public service of St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.