(CNS): The auditor general has found that government needs to develop a comprehensive workforce plan to meet its goals as there are significant gaps in managing talent, succession planning, recruitment and retention, and human resource strategies within the civil service. The latest report from Sue Winspear and her team warns that the deputy governor’s ambitions for a world-class civil service are at risk as there is no strategic direction about the future needs of government when it comes to its most critical resource — people.
The Office of the Auditor General published a new report Tuesday, entitled ‘Workforce Planning and Management in the Cayman Islands Government’, which takes a look at the state of affairs regarding having the right people in the right place in the public sector.
But the auditors found that, despite the efforts being made to better manage the 3,600 plus government workers, there are still significant gaps and inadequacies in many important areas. Having examined issues such as the patchy and poor succession planning and managers avoiding dealing with poor performance, the auditor general made over a dozen recommendations that government needs to implement in order to better manage its workers and the more than a quarter of a billion dollars it spends on personnel costs.
“The Cayman Islands Government has recently launched a new five-year strategic plan, which sets out the ambition of becoming a world-class civil service,” Winspear said in a release about the report. “But it does not have a plan that sets out its workforce needs in the longer term to ensure that it has the right people with the right skills in place to achieve its strategic objectives and deliver the services that will be needed in the future.”
The auditors have acknowledged that the government is beginning to improve its workforce management but there is much more to be done to integrate its approach and the auditor raised concerns over the lack of medium- to long-term planning and any real data or understanding about the future skill and talent requirements to create a first class service.
That’s not all. The auditors found some serious shortcomings regarding the technology systems that the human resource teams across the civil service are using and the way the information that the public sector does have about its staff is stored and communicated.
“It also urgently needs to improve its IT systems for workforce management,” Winspear said. “The systems in place are not well-designed, integrated or user-friendly, which leads to inefficiencies in both inputting and extracting information for decision-making.”
Winspear pointed out how important people are to running government and therefore the need to address numerous issues, including the failure to implement a pay strategy to ensure it can recruit and retain the talent it needs. Although the recruitment freeze has been thawed and the pay of some key public servants has been reviewed, the civil service has not yet come up with a broader plan for pay.
“The civil service is entirely dependent upon its staff to deliver its strategic objectives, policies and a wide range of public services. The five-year strategic plan is an excellent start but it also needs to have a clear pay strategy that sets out how it plans to keep civil service salaries competitive to ensure that it can recruit and retain the right staff now and in the future,” Winspear added.
In the report the auditor also raises the issue of succession planning for Caymanians and points out that it has been five years since many of the succession plans in government departments were developed and none of them have been reviewed or updated to see if they are working. While the plans are primarily designed to ensure local people are climbing the ranks of the civil service, they are also about ensuring that management is planning ahead for critical roles so that important posts are not left vacant for too long.
The auditors’ findings are illustrated by the long-term vacancies and the placing of interim and acting leaders in key posts.
Concerns about the failings in succession planning were also raised by Public Accounts Committee Chair Ezzard Miller, who said he would be fixing a date in the very near future to call witnesses to address the report. He said that the lack of up-to-date succession plans for Caymanians and the poor HR systems currently in place are some of the areas PAC will expect the civil service to respond to when they appear before the committee.
“Despite the development of a new five-year strategy for the civil service, the lack of planning for how many staff with what skills are needed to deliver good quality services to the people of the Cayman Islands both now and in the future is worrying,” Miller said “The PAC wants assurances that the civil service is taking action to ensure that it is creating sufficient training and job opportunities for Caymanians both now and in the future.”
See the full report in the CNS Library