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Public Service Commissioner: Staff retention ongoing concern for Cooks

Wednesday 23 August 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Economy, National


Public Service Commissioner: Staff retention ongoing concern for Cooks
Cook Islands Public Service Commissioner Carl Hunter, right, with Tonga Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku. 23082216

Cook Islands Public Service Commissioner Carl Hunter had the privilege of meeting Tonga Prime Minister, Hu’akavameiliku during the Polynesian Public Service Commissioners Sub-Regional Fono held last week in Tonga.

Presenting a pāte or slit drum to Prime Minister, Hu’akavameiliku on behalf of the Cook Islands Public Service, Commissioner Hunter informed the Prime Minister that “… attending this Polynesia Fono has shown me that it is glaringly apparent that although the PSC Offices within the Pacific differ structurally on a number of fronts, they also face a number of common issues and challenges.”

Hunter said that included retaining staff and managing their wellbeing to working within extremely constrained budgets and resourcing and needing to communicate with stakeholders to ensure that the public service understands the needs of their customers and communities.

Government agencies and ministries around the Pacific region are also facing growing difficulties when it comes to recruiting employees who are competent, experienced and have the required skill sets being sought, Hunter said.

He confirmed that improved collaboration and sharing of ideas and challenges among the 16 Pacific Public Service Commissioners, would enable them to learn from each other, and what is best for each of the offices, in an effort to improve both service delivery and good governance moving forward.

“To enable us to do so, however, there is no question that the ongoing support from the Pacific Fale in terms of bringing us together for annual meetings, the visitations of senior PSC officials and encouragement of short-term, practical training attachments will be critical.”

Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku as the Minister for the Tongan Public Service Office commented that those who work in the PSC Offices around the Pacific were public servants who were “smart, intelligent and passionate about serving their people and communities’.

Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku opened the Polynesian Public Service Commissioners Sub-Regional Fono on August 16 in Tonga.

Addressing the Polynesian countries of the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Niue - Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku challenged the Public Service Commissioners attending the Fono to use the lessons learned from their responses to Covid-19 to assess their performance and ask themselves what did they do right, and how can they do better? 

He called on the participants to identify best practices and share those lessons with other countries.  

Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku encouraged them to transform their services to the people through the use of e-government systems. 

It was a matter of ensuring that their “public services are delivered to all constituents of their communities including the vulnerable and to those living in their outer islands, or in rural areas so as to reduce the gap between those that ‘have’ and the ‘have nots’. “

Hunter, who was accompanied to Tonga by his chief executive Myra Patai, were also able to visit the Tonga PSC and meet with their human resources, monitoring and evaluation, as well as their performance management teams to better understand their systems of operating with a view to replicating some of the lessons learned in the Cook Islands.

Since 2004, the PPSCs have met at an annual conference to discuss their work, share practices and engage in mutual learning.  Over time, the PSCs have expanded their agenda to include engaging in collaborative projects to improve public sector performance across the Pacific and set forward agendas for public service development in the region.