Govt stands its ground on removal of Permanent Secretary

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 November 2020, 21:30 by Denis Chabrol

Samantha Fedee

Minister of Governance, Gail Teixeira on Thursday informed the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) that Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, Sherie Samantha Fedee was removed on the instruction of President Irfaan Ali.

The minister said  Ms. Fedee  would be offered a lateral position at the same terms and conditions. when the Ministry of the Public Service finds a suitable position.

GPSU President Patrick Yarde has already told Ms. Teixeira that it was up to Ms. Fedee to accept any other offer. “In the circumstances, the Union expects that Ms Fedee’s remuneration and other  benefits are available to her during and after the conclusion of her leave and that she
returns to active duty at the status of Permanent Secretary, unless she concurs with any change that is proposed to her.”

In her response to GPSU President, Patrick Yarde’s letter dated November 17, 2020, Ms. Teixeira said that the Public Service Commission (PSC) is not responsible for hiring and firing Permanent Secretaries as that is the sole responsibility of the President or a delegated minister.

On October 12, Ms. Teixeira penned a letter to Ms. Fedee informing her that her appointment as Permanent Secretary at the Amerindian Affairs Ministry on September 15, 2020 is “hereby revoked.” The GPSU contended that “letter a most outrageous usurpation of the powers of the Public Service Commission and an abuse of authority by you, the author of the letter in your capacity as a Minister of Government.”

But Ms. Teixeira said the President enjoys exclusive power under  Article 205 of the Constitution of Guyana to appoint or remove Permanent Secretaries. “This power is exercisable by the President and is not subject to, any recommendation of, or consultation with, any Commission, including, the Public Service Commission, or indeed, any other person, body or authority,” she said.

Karen Van Sluytman-Corbin

The Governance Minister said the constitutional rationale for the President having that power is in keeping with Article 115 which renders a Permanent Secretary subject to the direction and control of the President or a Minister appointed by him.

The GPSU President told Ms Teixeira, in his letter dated November 17, that Ms. Feddee has 25 years unbroken service as a career public servant dating back to 1995 when she was employed as a clerk to 2020 when she was confirmed as Permanent Secretary by the Public Service Commission (PSC).

But Ms. Teixeira fired back, saying that the PSC’s action infringed on the constitutional role of the President. “The act of the Public Service Commission on September 15th, 2020 is null and void as it usurped the constitutional prerogative of the newly elected President,” she said.

The Minister denied Mr. Yarde’s accusations that she flouted the law by terminating Ms. Fedee’s services as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs. “In the circumstances, I reject every allegation of wrongdoing, unlawfulness and unconstitutionality
contained in your letter,” she said.

Ms. Fedee’s reassignment from Permanent Secretary is almost identical to action taken against career public servant Mrs. Karen Van Sluytman-Corbin, then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Business cum Ministry of  Tourism, Industry and Commerce. Ms. Van Sluytman-Corbin is now the Chief Administrative Officer of Tourism.