Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Too crucial for further delay

Express editorial logo297

Mark Fraser

 All involved and all affected by it share the frustration expressed by Independent Senator Helen Drayton on Tuesday over “the current convoluted system of appointing a police commissioner”.

Since at least 2008, then Police Service Commission (PSC) chairman Christopher Thomas had consistently warned about the “protracted procedures mandated by Parliament”. Still, nowhere in the Upper or Lower Houses of Parliament has any move been made to change the rules locked in place by the Constitution, detailing arrangements for international head-hunting for a police commissioner and cycles of screening of candidates, before final approval by the Lower House.

Not only is the system time-consuming and expensive, but on the evidence it also provides no assurance that the candidate finally selected will meet expectations.

Senator Drayton’s concerns must thus be widely shared, but it remains unclear what is being done to fix such matters, since only a suitable majority of the Parliament can undo the system it had enacted in 2006-2007, and which has since proved unworkable.

If the Government is somehow dragging its feet, then it’s left for the Opposition or the Independents to prompt action by themselves proposing corrective legislation, and embarrass the People’s Partnership administration into making an earlier and more decisive response to the clearly unsustainable condition of an indefinitely acting police commissioner.

The current office-holder, Stephen Williams, has been operating with “acting” attached to his title since August 2012, and on Thursday he was handed another six-month extension by the PSC, his third renewal in the post.

Before that, PSC chairman Prof Ramesh Deosaran had voiced his complaint over the bureaucratic nightmare that surrounds the process of filling the post of police commissioner.

First up in the “convoluted system” Senator Drayton referred to is the Director of Personnel Administration advertising for a firm to be chosen to conduct the assessment of the candidates. And to confirm that the procedure is utterly ludicrous, almost 18 months after the post became vacant, no suitable firm has been found to undertake that task.

With that in mind, Senator Drayton questioned why Parliament was not implementing the necessary measures to correct this.

But petty politics is never far from this annoying failure on the part of past and present governments.

Whatever the issues, it is yet another example of our elected representatives failing to do what is in the best interest of those who voted them into office.

It goes without saying that an “acting” commissioner will never have the full respect and attention of those under his command. And the person holding the post without any formal appointment will not be able to put his own personal stamp on the position and ensure that all members of the Police Service are toeing the line and working in unison.

Too much is at stake for this ridiculous situation to continue.