Too much slackness
Wednesday, July 4 2012
Although Minister of Local Government, Suruj Rambachanís criticism of Peopleís Partnership local government representatives, who did not turn up at the coalitionís local government forum on Sunday or arrived late, as well as councillors and aldermen, who absented themselves from or barely attended statutory meetings of their corporations, was directed to PP personnel, nonetheless the statutory meetings aspect is a nagging problem which crosses party lines.
While we appreciate that absenteeism or late arrival at Sundayís forum may be viewed by some as a purely internal matter, disregard by any of the councillors and aldermen for statutory meetings is not. The lack of concern by such councillors and aldermen is all too often mimicked by staff, resulting in poor service to the public.
Low productivity in the departments of various Corporations in Trinidad and Tobago, whether in the department of the Chief Executive Officer, the Medical Officer of Health, the Human Resource Department, Assessor, Treasurer, Engineer, Police, Market, Transport and Cleansing or Public Health can lead to a backup and massive, needless inconvenience to burgesses. It is one of the reasons why so many believe it is only when they get on bad that they get service.
Streets can be indifferently cleaned and markets as well. There may be long lines at the various offices as persons seeking the use of services offered by the corporations are poorly attended to.
But while, Local Government Minister Rambachan was referring specifically to no shows and late comers at last Sundayís forum and at statutory meetings of various corporations, nevertheless the resultant cancer of underperformance by staff is also a feature of the nationís public service.
It is not uncommon for persons seeking basic assistance at central government departments and divisions having to wait for several hours while clerks and officials, many of them pen pushers at best, seek to convey the impression they are both important and busy.
Unfortunately, there is a domino effect when persons seeking service at central and local government departments are delayed. Because they are all too often working men and women, their normal work schedules are thrown out of gear triggering new rounds of delays.
Minister Rambachanís concerns arising out of the Coalitionís preparation for the next local government elections, constitutionally due in 2013, were aimed at sending messages to prospective local government candidates and others hoping to be aldermen or to continue serving as aldermen that slackness would not be tolerated.
Clearly representatives of the people should be prepared to set the right standards. On Sunday not only did a mere 72 percent of local government representatives turn up but many arrived late. Indeed, when the meeting began at the scheduled 9.30 am, there was a literal handful of local government representatives present.
The Partnership has 107 councillors and aldermen in city, borough and regional corporations and Minister Rambachanís concerns were clearly linked to heading off of a possible perception by voters of a disinterest by many Partnership local government representatives. Rambachan was distinctly appalled at what he referred to as councillors and aldermen often manipulating the system, making specific reference to aldermen who attended ďone meeting every three months to ensure that they do not get thrown outĒ. That had to stop, he declared.
What may be a key component of the Local Government Ministerís fear is that the electorate may be revolted by the late coming and absences of their local government councillors, in particular, viewing this as a lack of respect for and commitment to office.