by Larry Smith
From all accounts, there is a huge succession problem at the upper levels of our civil service - likely due to poor education and hiring standards over the years. That’s one of the reasons retiring senior officers are often rehired on contract (there are other reasons we won’t go into here).
The poster child for this problem is Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall.
He holds a statuary post under the Parliamentary Elections Act. He can be removed from this post if his actions are in breach of that Act, the Public Service Act or General Orders.
The decision to remove him otherwise would be at the discretion of the prime minister, I am told. A case for disciplinary action, outside of actions that are considered criminal offences, would have to be made to the Public Service Commission for this to happen.
Hall was promoted due to longevity, after the retirement of the previous commissioner. But he is clearly not up to the job. Evidence for this lies in his poor handling of the gender equality referendum earlier this year (which included the confusing and delayed release of results) and his obstruction of women trying to register to vote (which led to a protest movement called Too Sexy to Vote).
Hall blamed power outages and fax machine failures for the chaotic referendum result issues, but National Security Minister Bernard Nottage (who is responsible for elections) declined to criticise his performance at that time.
More recently - and despite the fact that voter registration levels are at a historic low - Hall defended his right to turn away any woman who did not meet his arbitrary dress code (men were not mentioned). And this was despite the fact that a voter’s card requires only a head and shoulders shot for identification.
This is what the law says: "to have two identical copies of a photograph taken of him/her by the revising officer, and being of such size as determined by the revising officer, portraying the head and shoulders of the person facing the camera."
In this case, Nottage felt obliged to respond to public outrage, saying no-one had the right to refuse to register a citizen to vote based on arbitrary standards or dress codes. But reports of people being turned away continued unabated, and it often took up to two hours for those who were able to register.
The Parliamentary Commission’s mission includes the following statement: "To afford every eligible Bahamian the opportunity to be registered and to vote in free and fair elections."
I daresay that having an incompetent like Hall in charge of our upcoming electoral process is not a good thing. Brace yourself for a whirlwind.