Though her facial expression belied her emotions, Senior Director for the Planning and Development Division of the Ministry of Education, Barbara Annette Allen, deemed it an honour to be named 2015/16 Civil Servant of the Year.
Ms. Allen, who has served the Ministry of Education for over 30 years, topped a field of four nominees, during the official launch of Civil Service Week 2015, at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston, recently.
The other nominees were: Earl Ranger – handyman from the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF); Courtney Brown – Director of Crime Prevention and Community Safety, Ministry of National Security; and Beverley Thomas Barnett, Administrator, Ministry of Education.
A citation, done in her honour, notes that as an educator, she is an “avid individual who strives towards self-development.”
“She is…a dedicated employee who is composed and portrays affable attributes. Her movements within her Ministry are a testimony to her versatility and knowledge in performing each task she is assigned,” it reads.
The citation further states that she has toiled long and hard and has lent herself to organisational development through effective performance of her duties. “Her merit as Civil Servant of the Year 2015 is characterised by her dedication to her work and service to the Government of Jamaica,” it adds.
Ms. Allen was the epitome of sartorial grace, when she spoke with JIS News about her selection for the prestigious award.
“I feel really honoured; and it is not really just for winning. But when I heard that I was nominated, I felt good because I said ‘you know, my colleagues saw something that they felt that I deserved to be nominated (for), because I must be doing something right’, so that for me was the high point. But now, winning, and winning for the Ministry of Education, is (such a joy),” she says.
Ms. Allen expresses her appreciation and gratitude to members of the Ministry’s staff for their support and encouragement over the years.
She tells JIS News that she started her career in education as a teacher, before taking a break in the late 1990s to further her studies. She, thereafter, rejoined the sector, subsequently rising to her current position at the Ministry.
All winners of the award are expected to undertake at least one notable project over the ensuing year.
While not finalising what area(s) she will be venturing into, Ms. Allen nonetheless says she wants to focus on customer service training within the Ministry.
“It is interesting that sometimes I find situations where persons would, for example, call into the Ministry to get something and they finally end up in the Planning Division.
“And so I would say ‘this really doesn’t have anything to do with me’ and the person would say ‘but I have been calling around and being put here and there’. So I take the time out to make sure that they don’t go any further,” she explains.
Ms. Allen points out that this engagement should serve to improve the experience for both internal and external customers, while increasing the Ministry’s prospects of becoming the “number one Ministry.”
She further points out that she also wants to “look at something within several schools.”
Ms. Allen notes, however, that further consultations on the matter will be undertaken with the Civil Service Week Steering Committee before the projects are finalised.
In his remarks at the function, Cabinet Secretary, Ambassador Douglas Saunders, noted that public servants are crucial to Jamaica’s sustainable development.
To this end, he said they need to continue adapting to the various changes they will encounter from clients and the environment in which they work.
“It is about movement, change, flexibility and adding value all year round, even while we experience inevitable change and reform in a wide range of areas. That experience of change helps us to better understand the changes also being experienced by our clients, who come to us for services and support,” he contended.
Guest speaker, President and Chief Executive Officer, Scotia Group Jamaica Limited, Jacqueline Sharp, urged civil servants to be agents of change.
“Upgrade operations where you see the need. See that waste is reduced. Transform the customer service experience. Ensure efficiency is the hallmark of the service you deliver. Each one of you can make a tremendous difference,” she said.
Ms. Sharp encouraged public sector workers to be diligent and relentless in their pursuit of developing and maintaining a high quality of service, adding that a cultural shift is paramount in this endeavour.
Highlighting the importance of service delivery to the success of businesses and its relationship with customers, she noted that training and development of frontline staff is important in this effort.
“Demand high service standards of them, and give them the resources to achieve these standards. Motivate those who come under pressure and need encouragement. Inspire them to give of their best and stand up for them when they need support,” she advised.
Civil Service Week is geared towards highlighting the work and worth of outstanding civil servants who have given excellent service to Central Government and to the country, as a whole.
Activities carried out to commemorate the week, which ended on November 20, included a national church service on November 15; exposition and concert in the Park, November 17; Jamaica Civil Service Long Service Awards, November 18; Ministries’ In House Activities and JCSA Secondary School Quiz Competition on November 19; and Ministries’/Departments Quiz Competition and Afterwork Lyme at the National Housing Trust Sports Club on November 20.
It was held under the theme: ‘Diligently and Relentlessly Pursuing Quality Public Services for Sustainable Development’.