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The PSC, its quorum and the SSC

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Among the questions now bothering the public are (1) Was the Police Service Commission (PSC) constitutionally appointed with its full membership when it made its recommendations for Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner? Can there be a quorum from an incomplete Commission? (2) Does the parliament have the power, through the Special Select Committee (SSC), to summon the PSC? (3) How much will it cost to restart the process of appointing a permanent Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Police?

Public discussion on these issues is quite important for reshaping and improving our state institutions. I submit the following views subject, of course, to examination by wiser heads.

The public is already alarmed that the recent controversial process cost close to $4m for the private firm recruitment process. It is much more if all other things are considered, for example, the salaries of the staff of PSC, parliament, etc. More so, the structure and procedures of the PSC have long been subject to notable objections, for example, from Reginald Dumas, Kenneth Lalla SC, and the PSC chairman previous to Dr Maria Gomes.

The constitution defines the Police Service Commission as a body of five members of stipulated qualifications and selected by the president after consultation with the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, after which the nominations are sent to the House of Representatives for approval. (Section 122 amended).

This implies that any reference thereafter to the “Police Service Commission” means a body of five members constitutionally-appointed from which a quorum, as stated in a dependant provision (Section 129 (2), may be drawn.

The quorum therefore is a derivative of a Commission with five members constitutionally appointed—not one with only four or three members.

Over a year, the Police Service Commission had only four members. This is a different from the PSC having five members constitutionally appointed, with one or even two members absent for one reason or another.

Does parliament have the power to summon the PSC? In the present circumstances, my view is yes. The PSC is constitutionally required to submit an annual report to parliament. This report may be publicly debated in parliament if a motion is filed to do so. In other words, the work and performance of the PSC can be publicly examined.

The adjunct to this power of parliament is therefore the power to seek the presence of the PSC for further explanation, etc. This can be discreetly done through the SSC.

This current complex, convoluted structure of the PSC was largely triggered over objections to the veto held by the Prime Minister regarding PSC appointment for Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner.

Note, however, whether you agree or not, the Prime Minister has a veto over the Judicial and Legal Service Commission’s appointment for Solicitor General, Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Director of Public Prosecutions, Registrar General and Chief State Solicitor. (Section 111).


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