If it’s broke, just fix it!

E DII TO RII A L

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

A lot has been said about ‘pub­lic sec­tor re­form’ and other am­bi­tious pro­grammes that merely aim to sat­isfy the wider pub­lic opin­ion that is dis­ap­pointed, dis­gusted even, by the in­com­pe­tence of peo­ple in power.

The po­lit­i­cal par­ties (the idiots with the ar­ro­gance to say ‘no’ to the first hair­cut on de­posits in March 2013, only to un­leash the wrath of Eu­ro­zone part­ners, for which we are still suf­fer­ing to­day), are cling­ing on to their par­lia­men­tary seats and im­pos­ing on the sheep-like vot­ers to re­tain party favourites as may­ors and mu­nic­i­pal coun­cilors. They also keep on re­as­sur­ing gov­ern­ment and wider pub­lic sec­tor em­ploy­ees that their jobs are safe, sim­ply to se­cure th­ese votes.

The Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic de­clared that (some day) he would in­tro­duce six deputy min­is­ters, to help with the in­creased work­load of the Cab­i­net mem­bers, while the com­mis­sioner for re­form is about to dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s of his new frame­work that is said to bring about rad­i­cal changes to the civil ser­vice.

Even the business com­mu­nity has been hear­ing about the con­cept of a ‘one stop shop’ for decades that has yet to ma­te­ri­alise for the sim­ple rea­son that gov­ern­ment de­part­ments are not co­op­er­at­ing.

Ac­tu­ally, Cyprus does not need re­form. It has an abun­dance of laws and reg­u­la­tions in place. Trans­parency and mer­i­toc­racy should never have been is­sues, as there are ways, sim­ple ones even, to in­tro­duce checks and bal­ances.

The only prob­lem is im­ple­ment­ing th­ese laws and reg­u­la­tions, which no one both­ers with. The fi­nal straw was when the Au­di­tor Gen­eral, the in­spec­tor of pub­lic spend­ing and good prac­tices, dis­cov­ered that se­nior civil ser­vants were al­lowed a mo­bile phone al­lowance and when the abo­li­tion of this perk was be­ing pro­posed, they all said, “if you cut of this al­lowance, we sim­ply won’t an­swer our phones”.

It is not the au­dac­ity of the ones say­ing it, but the stu­pid­ity of the oth­ers ac­cept­ing this ex­cuse.

Walk into any gov­ern­ment ser­vice nowa­days, when due to end-of-year pay­ments and doc­u­men­ta­tion, there is sup­posed to be an in­creased work­load on the coun­ters and at the desks. Yet, with some de­part­ments hav­ing seen their work­force re­duced to a third, the work is still be­ing done just as be­fore, some­times even faster. And they even found time in many of­fices to close early for their tra­di­tional par­ties.

What the Com­mis­sioner for Pub­lic Sec­tor Re­form should do is in­tro­duce ‘rules of good gov­er­nance’ and find way to re­ward hard-work­ing and pro­duc­tive civil ser­vants and pun­ish those who are a waste and a bur­den on the tax­payer. The meth­ods would in­clude ex­ter­nal au­dits, ran­dom checks and keep­ing the trade unions out of the decision mak­ing process.

Given the proper guide­lines and in­cen­tives, many civil ser­vants would be will­ing to work more, for less, even if their su­pe­ri­ors en­joy the id­i­otic mo­bile phone al­lowance.

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