by Anthony G. Stewart, PhD
The Minister of the Public Service occupies a very important position in the government. He sets out the policy by which the Civil Service operates. The Permanent Secretary, as the Chief Accounting Officer, ensures that the Civil Servants, who are the engine of the government, operate efficiently.
Traditionally, the workers in the public service except for a few, serve in a non-partisan, non-political role. They follow standard operating procedures. Protocol is very important in their practice. Sometimes they are called upon to expedite certain actions but they should still follow the correct procedure. On any given issue, the civil servants are the ones who should be answering public queries. Sometimes civil servants are blamed for the shortcomings of their Political Bosses. In recent times some workers appear to be unfamiliar with their jobs and too often look to others for directions which may or may not come.
In most cases, the civil servants work quietly behind the scenes but should make public appearances when needed. Too often, others who do not have the training nor the expertise take the spotlight and cause much confusion. Sometimes, some workers gain notoriety because of their lack of action which can have dire national consequences. One such occasion was during the Road Block Revolution when the police failed to clear blocked roads eventually leading to the fall of the government. Additionally, in the year after the Road Block Revolution, many workers failed to carry out their tasks causing the economy to stagnate. They were apparently responding to the call to make the country ungovernable. Since then, some workers have been giving their bosses “hell”, claiming that they are responding to the politician who gave them the job. The volcanic eruption and the Covid-19 pandemic were occasions when the relevant Civil Servants should have taken the spotlight accounting to the public with expert analyses.
The lack of timely audit reports reflects badly on the Civil Service, and they need to speak out so that they can be provided with sufficient resources to get the job done. When payment to workers and pensioners are not paid on time due to lack of funds, the public needs to be made aware of this. The budgeting process is called into question when budgets are presented year after year with no relation to the available funds. If the correct budgeting procedures are followed, the margin of error will be narrowed. Audits of every segment of public service will result in finetuning of their operations and lead to increased productivity. Exemptions and concessions inevitably lead to corruption because they may be treated as discretionary when they are in fact obligatory. Therefore, to wipe out waste, let everyone pay taxes and let none be exempted. Often, those who seek exemptions and concessions are well able to pay.
Civil Servants should be allowed to do their job without fear or favor. Hiring and promotions must be on merit. In this way, pride in the public workers would be restored and efficiency, accountability, and reliability will prevail.