Professor Duncan Calls for Entrenchment of Commissions


Director of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, Professor Neville Duncan has reiterated the call for the entrenchment of the Municipal Service Commission and the Parish Councils Services Commission in the Jamaican Constitution.
He was speaking recently at a public lecture under the theme: ‘The Role and Functions of the Commissions in Local Government Reform’, held at the Ministry of Finance and Planning in Kingston, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of both the Municipal Service Commission and the Parish Councils Services Commission.
Professor Duncan suggested that to effect this much needed consolidation of local government in Jamaica, “either both the Municipal Service Commission and Parish Councils Services Commission .or preferably an amalgamated Municipal and Parish Services Commission should be entrenched in the Jamaican Constitution”.
The Municipal and Parish Councils Services Commissions were established in 1956, to deal with appointments, dismissals and disciplinary control of employees of the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC) and the Parish Councils. Their roles include employing strategies to ensure the development of effective and efficient human resources to meet the strategic objectives of the Local Government Reform Programme.
The roles of both commissions, correspond with the function of the Public Service Commission. They are required to protect the municipal and unified service officers against discrimination, with respect to appointments, promotions, transfer and disciplinary proceedings.
They also provide all municipal and unified service officers with equal opportunities and fair treatment on the basis of merit, while severely discouraging the exercise of patronage, nepotism and favouritism by anyone affecting their purview.
Each of the commissions has a minimum of four and a maximum of six members, who are appointed by the Governor-General. They were commended by Professor Duncan, for doing exceptionally good work under the most trying circumstances over the past 50 years.
The Professor, who is also a member of the National Advisory Council on Local Government Reform, said that, “the members of the Council are strongly in favour of achieving a decentralised, well financed and fairly autonomous local governance system”.
Noting that the arguments have been particularly strong for the special entrenchment of Local Government in the Jamaican Constitution, he said that a move in this direction would automatically warrant the special entrenchment of a Local Government Services Commission (a suggested name for the two commissions combined) in the Jamaican Constitution.
Professor Duncan emphasised that it was important to achieve this objective, “because there is the belief that each parish or municipal council should manage all its affairs, but especially the personnel and administrative functions on the one hand and also the tax and financial functions”.
He noted that while there must be concessions on the tax and financial aspects, there could be no compromise on the personnel and administrative functions of local authorities.
“The administrative system and personnel of Local Government need to be protected from the vagaries of political interference and crucially, be allowed to function with impartiality and equity without fear or favour,” the Professor stressed.
He explained that, “unlike the central government system, parish council and municipal elections are held much closer to the people,” making them more vulnerable, hence the need for protection by a Local Government Services Commission that was supported by law.
In addition to the entrenchment of the unified services commissions, Professor Duncan said that ensuring equal conditions of work, pay and benefits for officers in the public sector, as well as ensuring that a highly decentralised and empowered Local Government system is adopted and constitutionally protected, should be priorities of the Local Government Reform agenda.
“In these ways, we can be sure Jamaica will be in great hands – the hands of people in towns, communities and localities – who know best how to meet their own essential needs,” he said.

JIS Social