Ancil Dennis, Assistant Secretary, Office of the Chief Secretary, Tobago House of Assembly (THA), believes the issue of lack of productivity and poor work ethic on the island is mostly a THA problem.
Addressing the PNM Tobago Council's monthly news conference at the party's headquarters, uptown Scarborough, Dennis said the THA has embarked on several initiatives to enhance productivity and discipline in Tobago, particularly within the public sector.
"I want to suggest to us that it is not a Tobago problem – I think it is a THA problem," he told reporters.
Dennis said if anyone wants to challenge him on the issue, they simply have to visit one of the commercial banks in Tobago at 8 am.
"If anyone fails to open because the tellers are late or because a supervisor is late, inform me, because that will never happen within the banking sector."
The representative for Buccoo/Mt Pleasant said he worked for several years in the banking sector before getting into politics "and the requirement for accountability and to be responsible was, in fact, existing and therefore you had to be on time. You had to give account for your actions and you had to report to your supervisors and your superior when required to."
Dennis said he quickly realised this was not the case when he entered the THA.
"I am saying, coming into the THA and the public sector, you realise it is a totally different culture. Same Tobagonians working in the banks. The banks didn't hire Trinidadians or foreigners, and they get to work on time and do what they are supposed to do when required to do it.
"In the THA it is somewhat different and I think the issue has to do with the culture."
Over 60 per cent of Tobago's labour force is currently employed by the THA, an issue Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles has bemoaned and promised to address.
The THA has been controlled by the People's National Movement for the last 18 years under former chief secretary Orville London (2001-2017) and now Charles.
Historian Dr Rita Pemberton spoke about the lack of productivity in Tobago in March, during a lecture series hosted by the Tobago Writers' Guild and Tobago Library Services. The issue has since been a talking point on the island.
FIXING THE ISSUE
Alluding to the suspension last year of two administrators in the divisions of health and tourism on allegations of wrongdoing in office, Dennis said the THA is already putting pressure on administrators to increase productivity and ensure employees fulfil their job responsibilities.
"Across the divisions, we are demanding that persons come to work on time and, of course, systems are being put in place such as registers to ensure that that happens. So we are making the necessary changes."
Dennis said the THA also has embarked on a series of reform initiatives scheduled to take place over the next few years. One such initiative is the public service academy, he said.
"We recognise that one of the issues has to do with training and especially persons coming into the system for the first time, there is no real orientation taking place.
"So we intend to establish the Tobago public service academy that will have responsibility for training to ensure that all of our officers across the THA receive continuous and relevant training to ensure they are equipped to do their jobs more effectively."
Dennis said the Ministry of Finance, in a pilot project, is also working to revamp the financial management systems of the THA and its divisions.
"In terms of our financial management practices, one of the issues has to do with the availability of financial records and information – the fact that it takes long for persons to go back into documents from many years ago, into boxes filled with dust, locked away in dark rooms, it presents challenges.
"So the Ministry of Finance is working on a process to revamp the financial management in the THA by 2021. It is called the Integrated Financial Management Information System. That is expected to revitalise our practices as it relates to our finances, from budgeting to auditing to accounting. We are doing what is required to make sure we hold people more accountable and to ensure we improve our efficiency across the board and our service delivery to the people of Tobago."