As we have mentioned often in these columns with the end of the war the Government`s attention is increasingly being focused on fields which were hitherto largely neglected. Even during the victory celebrations in the immediate aftermath to the end to the war the President declared war on drugs, alcohol, corruption, the underworld etc. These evils largely escaped the attention of all Governments whose focus was on the war. As a result all these evils snowballed into a state that bred a climate of impunity across the board.
President Rajapaksa has now declared war against inefficiency in the public sector, which has been long overdue. Addressing a function to honour a group of District Secretaries at Temple Trees on Monday the President said his goal was to achieve a successful State by launching a war against inefficiency through correct leadership.
The President said `all this time our attention was drawn towards the war. Now that the war has been won we have devoted full attention towards the people and their needs and to ensure an efficient public service.`
The move no doubt is going to win many a plaudit to the President from the much harried general public who had been made to suffer at the hands of our so called public servants for long. It is common knowledge that our public service has fallen to the lowest depths with the cancer of corruption lethargy and inefficiency eaten deep into the edifice.
We have 1.2 million Public servants (5 percent of the population) and it is common knowledge that the bulk of these are deadwood, time servers of no productive worth. The blame of course lay in the politicisation of the public service but that is neither here nor there. The public sector became a ready source of employment to the supporters of successive Governments, with no qualification or ability.
The political patronage gave them the license to do as they please with the result that the Public sector is today full of square pegs in round holes leaving room for inefficiency to thrive so much so the public sector today is identified with lethargy and incompetence.
One has only to walk into any state institution today to establish this fact. Desolate departments, Staff huddled in groups, others hanging on telephones, unattended files, idle fans, vacant desks and the general air of disorder all complete the picture of decay and lassitude.
The general public who come to attend to their tasks are treated with contempt and as an intrusion into this happy setting. They are being sent from pillar to post for some simple matter that could have been attended promptly with the stroke of a pen. The public complaints of harassment at the hands of these so called Public servants paid for by the public purse is all too familiar to need special mention. Newspaper correspondence are full of these incidents but no remedial action has been taken.
Time was when our public service was the envy of some of the advanced countries where rigid discipline was maintained and staff held accountable. Today there is no accountability nor discipline. In fact the public servant is today a law unto himself secure in the political patronage. This has bred a culture impunity in the public sector that is today enveloped in lethargy and inefficiency.
Therefore a daunting task lies before the President in effecting a turn around. Like many things post war a complete overhaul is needed in the public sector as well to make it an efficient body that would deliver the goods to the public.
The entrenched image of the public servant has to undergo a drastic transformation. Each and every public servant should be made accountable and bear responsibility. The deadwood should be weeded out and replaced with efficient personal. Though politicisation of the public sector cannot be done away with overnight no person or group should be allowed to throw his or her weight based on political influence.
A new code of ethics should be drawn for the public sector with the accent on discipline. Salaries and wage increases should be linked to output and not automatic. There should be no place for shirkers or clock watchers or time servers. Courtesy should be instilled in the public servant in dealing with the public. In short the public sector as a whole should be transformed into an efficient engine to meet the emerging challenges in the post war era.
The country is now on the threshold to take off on the path to development and prosperity. Every individual should therefore put his shoulder to the wheel to attain the new goals set for the nation. The public servant has a major role to play in this exercise.