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ANALYSIS: Basundra Saga Linked To Resistance To Reforms

Basundra Kumar lost the plot when she resigned from her position as deputy secretary for Education. The career civil servant who started as a school teacher and rose through the
07 Jan 2015 10:38
ANALYSIS: Basundra Saga Linked To Resistance To Reforms

Basundra Kumar lost the plot when she resigned from her position as deputy secretary for Education.

The career civil servant who started as a school teacher and rose through the ranks to the top position as acting permanent secretary must be regretting her ill-conceived decision to quit.

Her stoush with the Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts, Mahendra Reddy, was the culmination of resistance to changes from a group of senior education officers.

Mr Reddy brought about the changes to improve efficiency and increase productivity.

Some of these changes are outlined by Mrs Kumar in her submission to Pio Tikoduadua, the Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives.

This was her last resort as she took her fight to the political arena after the Opposition has had a crack at it.

Her grievances basically revolve around claims that Mr Reddy had failed to follow proper established procedures.

It’s ironical that on the other hand, she herself breached the procedural process when she resigned prematurely.

What was she thinking when she tendered her resignation, knowing that a process was being followed to suspend her pending a full investigation into allegations against her?

When she realised it was the wrong choice and wanted to withdraw her resignation, it was too late.

The Public Service Commission file had closed. It will not reopen the file so that she could pursue her personal agenda.

She had the opportunity to exchaust all the avenues available to her under the PSC rules of engagement but she opted out when she resigned.

It appears she had been propped up by the anti-FijiFirst Government brigade in the ministry and vested interests like trade unions outside the ministry. She ended up as the sacrificial lamb in a lost cause.

Her conduct and others from other ministries that have not surfaced yet are symptomatic of the stiff resistance by the old guard right across the civil service against the on-going public sector reforms.

The dissenters have had a good time in their comfort zones over the years.

Mr Reddy has only spent a few months in the ministry. But the resistance has been building momentum well before he became minister.

Mrs Kumar’s protest has been linked also to her returning to her deputy secretary post from acting permanent secretary. Kelera Taloga replaced her. Acting positions are self explanatory. They are temporary. Anyone else can act in the position until a substantive appointment is made.

This row has also highlighted the question: Who is the boss in the ministry?

Is it the permanent secretary or the minister?

Section 127 (3) of the Constitution says clearly: “The permanent secretary of a ministry is responsible to the Minister concerned for the efficient, effective and economical management of the ministry or any department under the ministry.”

In other words, the buck stops with Mr Reddy. He is accountable to the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. If Mr Reddy fails to deliver the desired outcomes of education policies then his job is on the line too.

His initiatives are aimed at achieving these outcomes. Reforms are looking at managers who will embrace new ideas and change. In Education it means managing more than 9000 employees, teachers and administration officers included.

When Mr Reddy gives a directive, he expects it to be followed. Those who resist will end up like Mrs Kumar.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 




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