Monday, June 1, 2009

Civil Servants and Politicians

I remember one of my colleagues, who used to belong to MDP, which was the main opposition party at that time, talking about the frustrations due to the government actions at that time. A few days later, he defected to the ruling party, DRP and was given a high post in one of the ministries, along with the board membership of a government owned enterprise.

This was a common story back then, when all government employees were administered through the public service division of the president’s office. We all got the ‘chit’ from the president back then. Higher posts were given at the government level to favorite people in the ruling party. Many government employees working at different levels even registered themselves as DRP members.

Then came the Civil Service Act. Deputy ministers, state ministers and ministers suddenly became political posts. An independent civil service commission was formed, and all government employees became ‘civil servants’ apart from those who worked in independent commissions. Permanent Secretaries were appointed in each ministry; he or she was declared as the head of the ministry from the civil service. When this sudden change occurred in our country, there were many among the deputy ministers or, even as ministers who belonged to the group of technocrats, or those who did not have a strong political affiliation to any party. Most of them were being promoted through the ranks of that particular ministry of office, and with a track record of service to the government. So, the change did not immediately affect the daily functioning of the ministries. And then, in November 2008, there was a new government.

With the new government, came new ministers, state ministers, deputy ministers, advisors, political secretaries, consultants, councilors, and so on. Some of the new ministers, state ministers, and deputy ministers were completely new to the public administration system, or some of them have not worked in the government for a very long time. Some of the political post holders were not having the relevant technical background, or know-how to perform the job duties. Very soon, conflicts started arising between the politicians and the civil servants. The politicians have started publicly accusing the civil servants of not performing their job duties, or declining to cooperate with the politicians. The civil servants complain that most politicians do not have the necessary qualifications of the skills for the job. There’s this on going fight between the civil servants and the politicians.

It was announced earlier that the present government wants to have a smaller government, or a few civil servants, and reduce the government expenditure as much as possible. As far as I know, the civil service commission wants to hire as few as possible, and the government also wants to have a smaller civil service.

Let’s look at the situation that we have now, and the resulting costs of it. If a minister (or a state minister) wants to achieve some targets, the civil servants wouldn’t do it. The politician hires a person as an advisor or a consultant (a political post), to achive that target after blaming the civil servants. After blaming the civil service commission for failing to provide enough and efficient staff. What is the end result? That political advisor or the consultant is paid a higher salary than the civil servant, and the irony of it, is that the advisor is also paid by state’s budget. From the same budget from which the civil servants are paid. Three civil servants could be hired for the salary given to the political advisor, however, political posts are created in order to ‘by-pass’ the civil service commission!

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