Malaise in the Public Service


By Jerry Roker
for Bahamas Press

THE British left a tradition of impeccable codes of conduct and work ethic in a public service moulded after their own patterns; but decades after we attained independence from Great Britain the attitudes and malaise in that sector have degraded to such an extent that efficiency and attention to a work ethic have become exceptions in a new normal. Successive Governments, which tried to curb the ills in the sector but found its efforts stymied by labour unions and General Orders, had to resort to employing persons in contractual capacities in order to get their work done in an efficient and timely manner.

However, those seeking essential services from employees of State institutions almost always complain that if no reward – in cash or kind, is forthcoming, then it is like trying to get past a brick wall to get any kind of service.

This trend has been endemic for decades, to the extent where the ordinary Bahamian is resigned to paying a ‘tip’ in order to get their business tended to in a timely and effective manner.

Health workers moonlight at private institutions and render the minimum of work in their areas of employment with the state, where they enjoy remuneration and benefits with incremental annual increases. The complaints from the public are endless but the complainants almost never receive redress.

The malaise is extensive and leaves a public in utter contempt and frustration. Many public servants turn up to work at their own whims and fancies, then proceed to the washroom to fix make-up before regaling fellow staff members about the latest gossip, the last episode of a television programme, or their own and the activities of others. Only then – probably in the mid-morning or nearing lunchtime, do they turn their attention to their work; and woe betides anyone who insists on engaging their attention before they are ready.

The general attitude of State employees to those whom they have to serve is that of arrogance and haughtiness.

The aberrations in the public service have been like a plague for decades.

We need to find the resolve to fix it once and for all. It certainly makes for good politics.