GIS – The inquiry focused on issues of fairness, discrimination, promotions, and grievances, and recommended law reform and an update of the Fire Service Act so that the laws conform to the Constitution.
An inquiry into the conduct and management of the Saint Lucia Fire Service has been released.
The inquiry was undertaken by a Commission appointed by Governor General Her Excellency Dame Calliopa Pearlette Louisy on the advice of Cabinet, after it was deemed “advisable for the public welfare” that an inquiry be made.
In addition to focusing on the management and conduct of senior Fire Service personnel on issues of fairness, discrimination, promotions, transfers, grievances and discipline, the Commission was also required to review the Fire Service Act to determine whether its regulations met constitutional and administrative requirements, and to make recommendations to update the Act.
The subsequent report issued by Francis Alexis, Commissioner of the Commission of Inquiry revealed several concerns, which include, but are not limited to unequal treatment in awarding promotions and appointments, and in administering disciplinary action.
There was a “lack of both managerial appreciation for the human factor, as well as a lack of clear departmental policies and procedures,” the report stated, which resulted in “situations of disrespect or disregard by subordinates for superiors, indiscipline, sick-outs, and industrial unrest.”
After a review of both oral and written evidence, the Commission made three kinds of recommendations.
It recommended removing from the Public Service Commission its power to appoint persons to offices in the SLFS, its power to exercise disciplinary control over such persons, and its power to remove or dismiss persons from those offices. However, to effect that change, “a bill has to be approved in a referendum,” the report stated.
There was also a recommendation to update the Act so that the laws conform to the Constitution, and to remove inconsistencies within the Constitution.
Finally. it was agreed that Chief Fire Officer Leslie Fontenelle be placed on contract, while Mr. Ditney Downes, Divisional Officer for the Southern Division be immediately transferred to Fire Service Headquarters.
The Commission sat intermittently, over a period of 20 days, between Dec. 2012 and Feb. 2013.
It stated that in making the recommendations, it exercised due regard and great respect for the substantial and constructive proposals for reform suggested by the various groups.