Allegations of Misconduct
Allegations of misconduct or indiscipline against officers in Public Service are serious because they have potential adverse effects on a public officer’s career and livelihood.
For this reason, investigations into any allegation of misconduct or indiscipline against public officers must be dealt with in a timely and professional manner.
It is also important that any public officer who commits acts of misconduct knows that he/she will be brought to account in a relatively short space of time.
Further, there are legal implications to the Statutory Authorities Commission if the investigation of allegations are not dealt with in accordance timely manner. The Statutory Authorities Service Commission must always comply with its own regulations.
It was also thought that the Public Service Investigations Unit should be staffed by legally trained professionals so as to reduce possible challenges to the legality of the process.
What are the timelines for dealing with investigations into allegations of misconduct or indiscipline against a public officer?
The power to investigate allegations of misconduct can be found in Regulation 90 of the Public Service Commission Regulations as amended by LN 41/ 2008 which states:
2. The Public Service Commission Regulations are amended in regulation 90—
(a) By deleting sub regulations (1), (2) and (5) and substituting the following sub regulations:
“(1) Where a report or allegation of indiscipline or misconduct by an officer is received other than a report or allegation of indiscipline to which regulation 85 applies, the Permanent Secretary or Head of Department shall report the matter to the Director for the attention of the Commission and concurrently warn the officer in writing of the report or allegation of indiscipline or misconduct.
(2) An Investigating Officer (IO) shall be appointed by the Director from the Public Service Investigations Unit to investigate the report or allegation.
(3) The investigating officer shall, within three days of his appointment, give the officer a written notice specifying the time, not exceeding seven days from the date of the receipt of such notice, within which he may, in writing, give an explanation concerning the report or allegation to the investigating officer.
(4) The investigating officer shall require those persons who have direct knowledge of the alleged indiscipline or misconduct to make written statements within seven days for the information of the Commission.
(5) The investigating officer shall with all possible dispatch but not later than thirty (30) days from the date of his appointment, forward to the Director of Personnel Administration for the information of the Commission an investigating officer’s report consisting of the original statements and all relevant documents together with his own report on the particular act;…’
The IO is appointed by the Director of Personnel Administration to conduct investigations into allegations of misconduct against public officers. The Investigating Officer initially has 30 days in which to complete her investigation. This time can be further extended by another 30 days (Regulation 90 (5)). Within the 30- or 60-day time limit the IO must within the first three days of his/her appointment inform the officer under investigation by way of written notice that he is to provide a written explanation in response to the allegations (Regulation 90 (3)). Falling within the 30-day period is the need for the IO to write to persons who have direct knowledge of the matters complained asking them to provide a written statement in seven days.
Why the need to adhere to the timeframe as stipulated in the regulation?
When the Commission exercises the function of discipline it is exercising a quasi-judicial function. There are therefore time frames built into each stage of the disciplinary process. These ensure fairness in the process. In order for discipline to be effective it must be timely. The courts have also pronounced on the need for adherence to these time frames. In the matter of Herbert Charles v J&LSC the court stated that minor breaches of the time frame set out in the regulations would not negatively impact on the process but that major breaches of the timelines set out in the regulations would vitiate the proceedings. It is therefore important to adhere to the time frames in the regulations.
What happens after an investigation report is submitted?
The report is forwarded to the Public Service Commission who having regard to the report of the IO and the Public Officers response decides whether or no he should be charged with an offence.