Sri Lanka’s moderate public sector officials are deeply concerned about the recent statement made by President Maithripala Sirisena accusing officials for failure to deliver on critical services efficiently to develop the country.
A strong group of senior public officials including retired officers, secretaries of ministries and leading professionals said that they can’t understand the logic behind the statement made by the president at the 36th Sri Lankan Administrative Service (SLAS) Annual General Meeting (AGM) at Nelum Pokuna recently.
They expressed their displeasure over the silent attitude of SLAS officials with some dignity following the scathing verbal attack made by the President against the behaviour of public servants, their interactions with politicians, and their disregard for delivering public services efficiently, infighting among top officials, and failure to work collectively to develop the country.
Everyone knows that politicization of the state machinery and the President’s appointments of inefficient outsiders who were not even conversant in AR and FR public administration procedures and practices made by the President himself has made it difficult for senior officials to carry out their duties properly.
One such recent example of the appointment of Hemasiri Fernando as head of Peoples Bank, BOI and later as Defence secretary and some of his own officials like his former Chief of Staff I.H.K. Mahanama and the former Chairman of the State Timber Corporation (STC) Piyadasa Dissanayake who allegedly being accused over the accepting of a Rs 20 million bribe bear testimony for this fact.
The President cited surveys done on the public service to prove his point that, it shows that efficiency has slipped to 30%, and the public sector public sector should at least increase this efficiency level to 50%.
No one knows as to how these surveys conducted and arrived at these conclusions without the knowledge of public servants, they said.
They noted that public sector officials are steering the wheels of state administration under the set of tug of between the executive and legislature.
The President should have some understanding about what has happened during the 52 day political impasse latter part of last year where the public officials had to manage country’s public administration without clear directions.
The problem was not with the efficiency of public officials, but with the political stooges without any background who were appointed by the President or with the recommendation of the prime minister to head some of the ministries and state institutions, they alleged.
Public administrators were politically influenced by institutional adjustments over time, backed by constitutional changes.
When appointments to jobs are made via the political patronage, it assists to locate officers in congenial jobs and stations.
Once a politician has obliged this way the officer is obliged to reciprocate and couldn’t refuse demanded political favors, the pointed out.
The 17th Amendment had overall integrated arrangements for good governance and de-politicization but was repealed by the 18th Amendment, which weakened public administration and good-governance mechanisms, paving way for increased politicization.
Even for senior officers politico-administrative compromising has become the way out, they claimed.