Minister Gibson tackles consultant policy: Nepotism paralyzes the civil service

POSTED: 03/29/16 5:50 PM

St. Maarten News – Since 10-10-10, politicians have been at the wheel appointing friends, family and neighbors to positions in the civil service for which they had no qualifications. That sums up an observation Finance Minister Richard Gibson made in an interview with Oral Gibbes earlier this month.

“The civil service is unable to do its job the way it should be done,” the minister said. “So what do we do? We hire consultants. There are so many consultant that we have hired over the years, it is just unbelievable.”

As an example, Minister Gibson mentioned a department head with eighteen people under him. When the minister asked why these people were unable to do their jobs, he said that there are at most four or five who can do their job. “The others, they can’t.”

Pressing for more specifics, the minister learned that the other thirteen or fourteen civil servants “do not have the capacity.”

Asked what these people were doing in the department, the department head said, “They were hired.”

Why? Gibson: “He told me that the department had to fill up its quota according to the formation plan. So they said: we need these people, but politicians said: we have a friend out there and you are going to hire him and put him in the government apparatus.”

“When you do things like that,” the minister told Gibbes, “of course you are going to end up with the situation we have today. That is what we have to deal with and you cannot say – we just leave them where they are.”

The minister said that consultants charge by the hour and that they are costing the government about four to five times the price of a civil servant.

Earlier in the interview, Gibson told Gibbes how children used to learn how to swim in the old days: you threw the off the pier and they would paddle back to the shore. After some repeats, kids would start jumping in the water by themselves – that is how they learned how to swim.

“We will have to start with how children used to learn to swim,” Minister Gibson addressed the current situation. “Those fifteen in that particular department who now say that they cannot do the job will have to do it. They are not going to do it the way you want to, and they are going to make mistakes. But that is alright. You learn from your mistakes.”

The minister sees no alternative: “If we continue hiring consultants we will stay where we are. If we let our people learn by doing, by monitoring them and by insisting that they follow the rules, there will be a complete change five years from now.”

Gibson’s interviewer Oral Gibbes seemed to be taken aback by the revelations, but Gibson reconfirmed that the way currently incapable civil servants were hired was because of nepotism – their ties to family, friends, or neighbors, and the need to give them a job.

“Once the quota for the formation plans was filled up there was no more space to hire others. That is where the consultants came in and that also explains why our own people did not improve further.”

Minister Gibson said that the situation does not apply to one particular department. “It is across the board, almost in every department.”

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