ANDRE BAG00 Monday, January 18 2016
THE CHAIRMAN of the Police Service Commission (PSC) – the Constitutional body charged with the appointment of the Police Commissioner – yesterday said the PSC was not consulted by Cabinet prior to last year’s issuing of two legal notices which propose a new process by which the country’s top cop is to be chosen.
“The PSC needs to be consulted and there has been no consultation,” said Dr Maria Therese Gomes in an interview with Newsday. “This is disconcerting and disrespectful in light of the constitutional role which is meant to be played by the PSC as well as the need for teamwork and combined expertise in reforming this process.” Under Section 123 of the Constitution, the PSC is in charge of appointing a Police Commissioner and Deputy Police Commissioner, as well as making promotions, disciplining, monitoring and appraising officers and reviewing some of the decisions of the country’s top cops. The chairman’s call for consultation comes ahead of the planned debate, in both Houses of Parliament this week, of two motions filed by the Opposition seeking to have orders outlined in Legal Notice No. 218 and Legal Notice No. 219 – published last December – annulled.
STORM BREWING The House of Representatives is due to debate the two Opposition motions on Wednesday, if time permits, while the same motions are also due for debate in the Senate on Thursday. In a sign that a storm is brewing over the issue, the Opposition yesterday indicated it will call for each motion to be subject to its own individual debate and will field all of its speakers in the Senate, raising the prospect of a marathon sitting.
Opposition Senate Whip Wade Mark said while the process of drawing up a new selection process has historically been one which has seen the Government and Opposition sometimes cooperate, there was no consultation between the Government and the Opposition on the two legal notices in question which were published days before Christmas on December 16, 2015.
“These notices were drawn up unilaterally,” Mark said. “They had no discussion with anybody, not even the Opposition. Traditionally, we have had consultation, collaboration, coordination in the past. Why did you go about secretly drawing up these?” It is understood the PSC has sought legal advice on the two legal notices which seek to overhaul how the country selects a Police Commissioner and Deputy Police Commissioner. A full statement on the matter is due to be made by the PSC later this week. The process by which the Police Commissioner and Deputy Police Commissioner are appointed is currently outlined in three Presidential orders from 2009 (outlined in Legal Notice 101, Legal Notice 102 and Legal Notice 103). The two legal notices outlining a new procedure meant to replace two of the three orders currently in force were issued on December 14, 2015, under the hand of the Cabinet Secretary and published two days later on December 16, 2015. They were tabled in Parliament two weeks ago. The new process purports to remove the role of the Director of Personnel Administration (DPA) from the process; limit candidates and recruitment firms to only locals; and to expand the pool of persons who may qualify to be Deputy Police Commissioner by replacing a qualification criteria of twelve years experience in policing with a shorter time-frame of ten years experience.
Former PSC chairmen have criticised the current process, as has the current chairman. However, there is understood to be growing concern over the lack of inclusion of the relevant stakeholders in the formulation of a new process. Aspects of the proposed process of selection have also attracted scrutiny, such as: the purported removal of the role of the DPA when the PSC is not an accounting officer and still falls under the remit of the Service Commission; as well as the use of broad parameters which some say are too general and do not give enough guidance.
YOUNG: PSC HAS ROLE At last week’s Cabinet media briefing, Minister in the Ministry of Attorney General and Legal Affairs Stuart Young assured the new procedure does not undermine the role of the PSC. “The legal notices that have been put forward do not in any manner whatsoever, bypass the PSC,” Young told reporters gathered at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair. “The PSC are involved.” He did not say whether the PSC was consulted.
In Parliament last Friday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert confirmed the Government’s plans to establish a “Police Management Agency” and a “Police Service Inspectorate” which would “modernise” the Police Service and “uphold accountability”.