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Sep 24, 1998

Minister talks reform with top civil servants

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When any new government comes to power one of the first things it typically does is announce plans to reform the civil service. Belize is no exception to this rule and today the minister responsible for public officers got together with his top employees to talk and to listen. News Five’s Patrick Jones was there.

The half-day meeting at the Radisson Hotel, brought together over twenty-five senior managers of the public service to discuss ways of overhauling the system.

Elizabeth Chavarria, P.S. Ministry of Public Service

“This morning’s forum is in furtherance to the ministry’s new quest at reviewing methods of performance within the public service, discussing methods for re-energizing the public service and to give some focus to customer satisfaction and proper deployment of human resources, really to stimulate their energies into performing at a higher standard.”

But to achieve that goal, it will take determined effort on the part of all the players.

Charles Gibson, Chief Archivist

“Some of the problems I know which we are very concerned about is the whole issue of efficiency, the whole issue of productivity, the whole issue of transparency and accountability in the public service.”

That concept is being fully embraced by Minister of the Public Service Jose Coye who believes the way to go is to get as much participation as possible from the very people whose task it will be to implement the changes.

Q: “Is the public service ready for reform?”

Jose Coye, Minister of Labor & Public Service

“I believe they are. I think that the public service, we must understand, is not a group of people who were reared in a different place and brought here. The public service is a product of the society. And to the same extent that we can have people with a high sense of commitment and motivation in any other sector, the private sector, N.G.O.s, the same it can be in the public sector.”

Charles Gibson

“First of all, in my view, and this is only my personal view, when we are talking about public sector reform, I think one of the first things that has to come across quite clearly is the whole issue of getting the support from the political directorate, that the political directorate themselves are interested in having public sector reform. From discussions we have been having this morning, that is clearly the way we understand things are going to be going. What the Association of Public Service Senior Managers are looking at is to see how we can work in partnership with government to effect whatever public sector reform that is agreed upon.”

While some senior managers fully embrace the move to public service reform, for others it will take a little more effort. Although the Caracol Room was filled with department heads, we ran into the same kind of bureaucratic red tape they were talking about flushing out.


I brought up the issue of attitude, because I’ve been going around this room trying to talk to some of the Senior Managers and what have you and I run up against this same bureaucratic red tape, “no, I can’t talk;” “you better talk to the Permanent Secretary first;” “you better talk to this one first,” “I don’t want to talk”. I mean, it’s the sort of thing that we have been complaining endlessly about.

Elizabeth Chavarria

“I think that that is an individual attitude and decision. I don’t see why they would be reluctant to speak out. As a matter of fact since the first debriefing, the Cabinet Secretary really encouraged the media to walk up to technocrats and to ask their views. And of course there is no reason why such technocrats would not want to speak to the media because what we are doing, we are doing, and that should be public knowledge.”

Henry Baizar, Fire Chief

“There needs to be a reform of attitude in truth. I think that public officers need to speak out. My point is if something happens, or if there is something to be reported, then it should be reported, because the general public should know about it. If you’re hiding away from reporting something that happened or something that is happening, then probably there is something to hide, or you’re trying to hide something. And we should be open, because we are public servants.”

Today’s discussion took the debate on public service reform one step closer to fulfillment. But debate is the easy part; action may prove more difficult. Patrick Jones for News Five.

More meetings are scheduled to continue the dialogue.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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