Bane of the country, public sector inefficiency | Sunday Observer

Bane of the country, public sector inefficiency

The inefficiency in the state sector which has resulted in creating displeasure among the public towards every previous government should come to an end during the tenure of the present government, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa emphasized. Addressing top public servants, he highlighted the importance of efficiency, productivity and transparency in every state entity with a direct linkage to the day to day public life.

Most members of the public sector seem to have forgotten that their prime duties are towards the public. The state institutes should function in an efficient and transparent manner for the benefit of the public.

Last year, a survey made a startling revelation that productivity and efficiency among public servants has dropped to an all time low of 30%. This means, 70% of the public sector workforce, which is nearly one million employees are idlers who sponge on the bulk of the financial resources of the country. No wonder many people feel that government servants are parasites living on the resources of society.

The survey also referred to the financial mess in most state sector institutions due to mismanagement and employee inefficiency. This is an unforgivable crime perpetrated on the taxpayers who are asked to shoulder the financial burden of 70% of public servants who are idling in their workplaces.

President Rajapaksa emphasized the importance of efficiency and said, “Unnecessary Ordinances and regulations should be amended immediately in order to transform the public service. The process of providing services by the state sector should be simple and conducted in a manner that would not impose an unnecessary burden on the public.”

The entire state sector should bear the responsibility of restoring public faith and trust in their service. Open discussions and debate over issues without hesitation are vital in this process. The President said since public service is the backbone of the country, a committee of experts has been appointed to select qualified and skilled professionals to the higher positions in state institutes.

During the seven decades since Independence, although the country has achieved a degree of physical development, no progress is seen with regard to quality. The Government has directed its primary attention to this sorry state of affairs, since the country’s social, economic and administrative development is at stake.

Sustainable development would be impossible if the efficiency of public servants could not be raised at least up to 50% in the near future as the first phase. In the private sector the aim is 100% efficiency. With proper guidance, will power and determination, the public sector efficiency rate could reach closer to the level of the private sector efficiency.

Realizing the importance of enhancing productivity the National Productivity Secretariat was set up over 50 years ago. Productivity promotion in Sri Lanka was emphasized in 1966, after Sri Lanka obtained membership in the Asian Productivity Organization. As a member of the Asian Productivity Organization, Sri Lanka established a management development and productivity centre under the Ministry of Industries in 1968.

Although 50 years have passed, public sector productivity continued to dip. Impartial analysts blame all Governments for the drop in the quality of development and progress and the quality of the public sector.

During the era of the Ceylon Civil Service and the initial days of the Ceylon Administrative Service, public service functioned at a high professional level. One has to acknowledge that the decline began with the politicization of the service. Adding to this is the appointment of unqualified and unsuitable persons, based on political loyalty, to man important positions in Government departments and corporations. As a result the efficiency has plummeted to 30% or less.

Addressing the staff of the Presidential Secretariat on January 1, 2020, Secretary to the President, Dr. P.B. Jayasundera said all public servants must honestly commit themselves to fulfil their respective duties in an efficient and productive manner. He said President Rajapaksa is proud of the fact that he was a public servant (Defence Secretary), adding that the President has placed strong confidence in the public service in the process of building the country.

Jayasundera said the prime objective of President Rajapaksa is to create an efficient and people-friendly public service and the President wished that those in public service would render a service worth more than their salary.

The benefits offered to public servants can only be enhanced through strengthening the service. The salaries of Government employees are being paid using the earnings from other sectors in the country. Therefore, public servants have an unquestionable responsibility towards the nation.

He said, “the vision of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is that the public service should not be a burden on the public. During the past era the pledge given by public servants was limited to a custom and as a result the public service transformed into a service that was not appreciated by the people”. The Secretary to the President pointed out the importance of all public servants fulfilling their respective duties in a manner that could eliminate the hatred among the people towards the public service.

A substantial amount of money is spent on the public service. ‘Rata Hadana Saubhagyaye Dekma’, the policy manifesto of the President does not consider public service as a burden. The aim of the President is to provide more benefits to the public through an efficient public service.

Jayasundera stressed the need for a new approach in the public service to build a democratic institutional system based on equality to create a people-centric country.

Obviously, the President wants to build efficiency and productivity in state bodies. For this purpose he would have to control unnecessary and ad hoc recruitments to Government Departments and C orporations. The President has set an example by reducing the staff at the Presidential Secretariat by two thirds.

Although President Rajapaksa announced the recruitment of 100,000 youths for unskilled work, it cannot be considered as a burden to the public sector because the objective is to raise the living standards of the poorest of the poor families in the country. It is a worthy social welfare measure.