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Shuffle them up prime minister

Published: May 19, 2017

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Dear Editor,

The swearing in ceremony for the Cabinet ministers was a jubilant occasion. Many Bahamians are optimistic that there will be change. Prime Minister Minnis’ speech reinforced this belief, but there was one moment that I felt demonstrated our desire for change. The crowd applauded and cheered when he stated that he will shuffle permanent secretaries. I too applauded and cheered in front of my television but wondered if the audience and I were ecstatic for the same reason.

Since returning home from completing my master's degree last year, I have had serious challenges with senior officials within the ministry that I am employed. Prior to my return, I wrote a letter to my permanent secretary (PS) asking to be transferred to another ministry. I felt that this ministry was better suited for my qualification. Surprisingly, she responded by saying the transfer would be considered once I was completed. So, I returned home ready to go back to work. But I continuously called and wrote letters to follow up on the request. Unfortunately, I got no indication of where and when to report to work. Eventually, the director from my ministry wrote a letter to me that said no consideration could be given until I resumed the duties of my current position. Finally, I returned to work.

I had hoped that this would speed up the transfer process. Instead, I have been working for five months and have yet to be paid. I've written my PS and have even met with her and the former minister to determine when I'll be paid. Of course, they gave me a date but that date has come and gone without any payment. To add insult to injury, despite writing letters and calling to follow up, no official has reached out to me. I was not offered a salary advance. I was not offered vouchers. I was not offered anything.

Fed up with the lack of concern from my ministry, I stopped going to work and devoted my energy to getting this resolved. Interestingly enough, I've had family members plead with me to return to work to avoid having my salary cut. They seem more concerned about me being punished, even though my basic rights have been ignored.

I'm sharing this matter for one reason. It seems that rules, order and common courtesy do not apply to permanent secretaries, directors and human resource personnel. Based on The Bahamas government's website, a request for transfer is sent from the PS to the Ministry of Public Service. To my knowledge, my request, that I initially made a year ago, hasn't made it there yet. Furthermore, I'm often reminded by older public servants that my salary is guaranteed and I just have to be reinstated to the public service. I always respond by asking how long that process is supposed to take. Would this be acceptable if I were working for a private company? One would think that after letters and calls at least one senior official would offer a definitive response, even if it is via email. I'm assuming they do have email addresses and internet access.

So, I wonder how many persons in that audience, in particular young Bahamians like me, have received similar treatment on their government job. How many others are afraid of being cut when they seek to fight for what is right? How many others feel punished for desiring to pursue higher education? I admire the prime minister's desire to revamp the public service by shuffling permanent secretaries, but I feel that more has to be done. If getting cut is my punishment, what is theirs?


– The Frustrated but Dedicated Public Servant


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