PERSONS hoping for selection to the posts of Chief and Deputy Fire Chief within the St. Lucia Fire Service may very well find themselves going through the selection process a second time.
This is because the Public Service Commission (PSC), which interviewed persons for the two top positions last month, noted that it was unable to go through with the selection process because of an ongoing review of the Fire Service.
“The Commission will not go through a selection process at this point until it is informed of recommendations coming out of the recent interview,” PSC Chairman Wilbert King, said.
Letters from the PSC to some of those who applied for the positions and were interviewed noted in part that “As a consequence of the ongoing review of the St. Lucia Fire Service, the Public Service Commission has agreed not to make any appointment to the post of Chief Fire Officer at this time.”
In fact, the PSC agreed to not make any appointments within that organization, not just the Chief Fire Officer’s position.
The review in question has its roots in a Management Audit of the Fire Service back in 1996 when Dr. Vaughan Lewis was Prime Minister.
That audit team, which comprised Parry Husbands, Mark Louis and Haynes Cyril, inquired into the principles and practices governing the recruitment, promotion, demotion, training and discipline of personnel in the Service.
The team was to, among other things, make recommendations for the efficient management and effective leadership of the Service in the short-term, medium- and long-term. The team was also to inquire into the availability of a succession plan for the upper echelon of the Service and the extent to which such plan is activated.
The team’s findings twenty years ago were troubling. There existed a lack of cohesion amongst the senior ranks of the Fire Service which had filtered to the subordinate officers. This, in turn, resulted in the absence of a healthy communication climate in the Service. Other findings of the team revealed that promotional policies and practices inconsistent with the Act and Regulations had led to a feeling of favouritism, among other things.
The Management Audit of 1996 seems to have been shelved by the authorities because another report on the Fire Service, conducted as recently as last year by Jim Scopes and Alyson Hall of the United Kingdom and Sheila Imbert of St. Lucia, entitled “St. Lucia Fire Service Review”, seemed to have mirrored the 1996 report in terms of its findings and recommendations although the 2016 report gave a list of critical and essential things that the authorities should implement immediately to avoid a total collapse of the Service.
After continuous complaints on issues of fairness and discrimination in dealing with appointments, promotions, transfers, grievances, discipline and sexual harassment, a Commission of Inquiry was set up in December 2012 which submitted a report to government in April 2013.
The Commissioner made several written findings in that report which included, among other things, a finding of “unequal treatment” meted out by the management of the Fire Service, particularly in matters of promotion, training and allowances as well as in the administering or recommending the administration of disciplinary action.
The Commissioner even found evidence of insensitivity in the Fire Service.
As to how long the PSC will open up to receive applications for vacant positions within the Fire Service is not known. Neither is it known when the review of the Fire Service will end and what will be done based on its outcome.