The minister is not to blame for the shutdown of Immigration offices and it is the responsibility of the Permanent Secretary (PS) to ensure proper working conditions for employees, says Justice Minister Emmanuel George.
He made the statement during his contribution to the Miscellaneous Provisions (Administration of Justice) Bill, 2014, yesterday at the Senate sitting at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.
George said when he served as a PS and Transport Commissioner, he never sought to cast blame against the minister and Government for problems in the system. Instead, he said he made it his duty and responsibility to address them himself.
The minister said the PS in a ministry has the duty and responsibility to look after the ministry and its offices as manager and accounting officer. He said the PS has prime responsibility to ensure the environment in which employees work is safe.
Secondly, he said the PS must ensure the accounting unit is working so that officers can get paid; and, thirdly, it was the PS’s job to make the employees work.
George said when he was Transport Commissioner, he ensured toilets and the environs of the Licensing office were kept well, and he never called a minister to complain about a non-functioning air-conditioning unit.
“People are abdicating their responsibility and everybody is blaming the minister and the Government,” said George. “It is really a shame, Mr President, that we have the Government being held as the culprit in matter where you have to change a light bulb or a toilet plunger.”
George recalled there were issues of non-working elevators at Riverside Plaza, Port of Spain, when he was PS, and he made a request to the Cabinet to have them changed and “nobody stopped work” because he carried out his responsibility.
Speaking right afterwards, Opposition Senator Stuart Young agreed with the Justice Minister that “the buck must stop somewhere”.
Young said as a society, the people need to change their attitudes in order to develop and move toward First World status.
“We must stop thinking as a selfish people... we must take personal responsibility... we must each do what we can to improve this great nation of ours... now is the time to take stock as a people,” said Young.
He said there was need for reflection in the way we as a people operate in this country, adding he cannot accept the shutdown of Immigration offices, as he reiterated the need for pride in country.
“We on the Opposition side would like to thank all the members of the public service who are living by these attributes,” he said.