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Why Civil Service Reforms Critical

Why Civil Service Reforms Critical
Civil Servants
March 12
15:33 2018

This is an edited version of Nemani Delaibatiki’s My Say in the FBC TV programme, 4 the Record last night.

 

All civil servants must implement the policies of the Government of the day whether they agree with it or not.

In theory the legislature and the executive are separate and independent of each other in our democracy. In practise, it is not quite the same.

There are grey areas and even overlapping of functions.

The doctrine of the separation of power is a key element that defines the boundaries between the various arms of Government. It is there to prevent the abuse of power.

In real life people tend to blame the Government for everything that goes wrong. Their perception of Government is that the ministers, who are part of the legislature, and the civil servants who are members of the executive, are one organisation.

They come under the umbrella of Government. The buck stops with the ministers.

The irony is that while they are separate under the doctrine of the separation of power, on the other hand they are supposed to be working together in serving the people.

The ministers or political masters produce the policies and the vision. The civil servants provide the technical support and expertise to implement those policies. They provide advice and directions. Are the ministers obliged to follow their recommendations? It’s yes if they agree with their policies and no if they don’t. This is where conflict arises.

It becomes tricky when some civil servants may be hostile to the Government policies because they politically do not subscribe to those policies. They may deliberately try to undermine them by slowing down and frustrating development progress.

But if there are systems in place in terms of accountability and transparency, there can be early detection and intervention with regards to alleged acts of sabotage.

The other serious issues deal with inefficiency and incompetence.

A member of the public waited for about several years for Government assistance he was entitled to. The civil servants involved gave him the runaround that he finally gave up. He had no idea who to turn to for help.

When he heard that Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama was heading to his district he decided to attend his talanoa session and raise his grievance.

Officers from the Government department concerned were also present. Mr Bainimarama instructed them to fix the problem. A few days later the man received the assistance. It was obvious that this man, who comes from the rural area, was not treated as important by the civil servants. Why it took that long to get it sorted boggles the mind.

The man simply thought there was something wrong with the Government and blamed the minister responsible.

The minister was unaware of the case. But remedial action was taken after that incident to make sure it did not happen again.

This is a perfect example of where the civil servants involved were clearly at fault. They lacked compassion and customer service. But the minister was blamed.

That is why it is so crucial that we support the current civil service reforms.

They are designed to eliminate this kind of conduct and is symptomatic of the culture that exists in some sections of the civil service.

Let us hope that the reforms will improve the civil service delivery and re-establish a clear line of responsibility. It is logical, for practical reasons, that the line minister must be overall in charge with his or her ministry.

The permanent secretary who is the CEO for the ministry reports to the minister. This will enhance accountability and transparency.

All civil servants must implement the policies of the Government of the day whether they agree with it or not.

There should be no confusion. Service to the people will improve.

Governments can only become effective if the civil servants and their political master’s work together to serve the people.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 

 

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