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Demming: We need to fix the system, not subvert it to suit our friends

The perception that if you are within the inner circle of the government, you can get anything you want was solidified in my mind with the recent announcement by the Prime Minister.

Clarence Rambharat, former agriculture, lands and fisheries minister, we were told, is coming back into government and will take up a position in the yet-to-be-created Single Point Land Management Authority (SPMA) and his terms and conditions of employment will be determined by the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO).

Photo: Clarence Rambharat on the campaign trail in the lead-up to the 2020 general elections.
(via PNM)

In other words, the Prime Minister is seeking Cabinet’s support in forming a company while simultaneously instructing the CPO to determine the terms and conditions of employment of his nominee for the leadership role. In one announcement, we have thrown out any idea that there is a process to form a company and that the hiring procedure is fair and transparent and allows all suitably qualified citizens to access the opportunity.

In the normal course of things, forming a company, state enterprise or entity requires a clear articulation of the problem to be solved or the service to be offered followed by a careful definition of the core values and the mission of the organisation, development of the job description of the leaders before engaging the hiring process.

If the Prime Minister publicly throws all the rules of engagement out of the window, what are we to expect of the public servant when his friend asks a favour? What will motivate a junior person to feel a commitment to following the rules?

Successful organisations seek to recruit persons who can advance the mission of the organisation and often use a transparent process to invite persons who are inspired to help solve the problem. The failure of the SPMA is almost written on the cards because of the way the company was introduced to the public.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(Office of the Prime Minster)

The SPMA is envisioned as solving a critical problem where state lands often end up being occupied without authorisation by persons who are bold and savvy enough to outfox the system. The entity is intended to eliminate corruption associated with the management of state lands.

A reasonable person cannot deny the need for regularisation and management of what happens with state lands. And given the historical inequity in the distribution of state lands, this issue must be managed transparently.

How will the SPMA differ in its role and responsibilities from the Land Management Division?

According to the Ministry of Agriculture’s website:

“The Office of the Commissioner of State Lands (COSL) is charged with the overall management, distribution, and allocation of all State Lands, which includes all shoreline below the high water mark and the seabed within the waters of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Photo: Former minister of agriculture, land and fisheries Clarence Rambharat.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2021)

If this is not working and you have found corrupt practices, we should be investing time and effort in fixing the system, not creating another bureaucratic structure. The message of repair can be deeply fulfilling and will necessitate hard work and dedication.

Instead of engaging in the hard work, our government has once again thrown up its hands and looked for a shining new entity in the hope that it will solve the problem.

We have not yet learned that workarounds have not worked and that, to regain the trust that people outside of the inner circle will be considered, what is needed is deep systemic change.

About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming
Dennise Demming grew up in East Dry River, Port of Spain and has more than 30 years experience as a Communication Strategist, Political Commentator and Event Planner. She has 15 years experience lecturing Business Communications at UWI and is the co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain. Dennise holds an MBA, a B.Sc. in Political Science & Public Administration and a certificate Mass Communications from UWI.

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2 comments

  1. The whole expensive state sector, which has been a vehicle for corruption, nepotism and other social ills, was created because of the inability/unwillingness to comprehensively reform the public service.
    This has also strangled the public service as few were willing to settle for the poor salaries when they could go to a state corporation and be handsomely rewarded.

    • I accept what you are saying but the time has come for us to bite many bullets and public sector reform is one of them. I don’t accept that we cannot change. What is needed is thoughtful leadership at all levels.