Call to streamline Public Service | Daily News

Call to streamline Public Service

Public servants work for the Government and for citizens. In any country, they are responsible to the elected Government and not to a political party. They develop and deliver public programmes or services, inform policy-making, and provide evidence-based advice to political leadership of the State.

In a developing country such as Sri Lanka, public servants can embrace the qualities of servant leadership of being mindful of and caring for the underprivileged in society, prioritizing the growth and well-being of individuals and their communities and displaying awareness, empathy and foresight.

These qualities and responsibilities were reminded to top public servants earlier this week by Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Addressing District Secretaries at the Home Ministry in Colombo on Tuesday he said some officers shirk their responsibilities trying to pass the buck to other institutions. However, as senior-most public servant of a district he or she has the overhaul authority as well as obligation to ensure smooth implementation of every Government programme of action.

Referring to the General Certificate of Examination (Advance Level) scheduled to take place shortly he pointed out that more than 300,000 children sit for the examination and warned that nobody should be allowed to disrupt the examinations. Any attempt to disrupt examinations that decides the future of these youths is a crime, he said and urged the public servants not to be a party to any such act.

“You must not try to wash your hands off by stating that the exams are the responsibility of the Examinations Department. You must be in close touch with them to monitor and ensure that exams are conducted smoothly. If it is disrupted the students will waste a full year. They cannot enter universities for another year and do not be a partner to such a crime,” he warned the senior public servants.

There is an accusation that most of the public servants work only to bring home a paycheck and support their families. However, just as in the private sector, public servants tend to do a much better job if they truly care about their work. Effective public servants must have an enduring sense of duty that compels them to go the extra mile and to behave with integrity.

When faced with a challenging situation, public servants who believe in a call to service are more likely to behave ethically. It is important to note that servant leadership can exist at all levels of an organisation. Some public service involves working directly with the people living in communities, while others may solely work with their teams in the organisation. In both settings, public servants can embrace the principles of servant leadership.

Speaking at the meeting held to discuss the ‘New Village – New Country; National Coordinated Participatory Development Programme’ the Prime Minister and several State Ministers emphasized the importance of boosting agriculture and the prime role of District Secretaries in this programme. Secretary of the Ministry Neil Bandara Hapuhinna said it is the responsibility of District Secretaries to ensure that the end targets of the plan are achieved.

We are moving towards the ‘MAHA’ Season of cultivation. Its success is anticipated not only by the relevant ministries of the Government but also the whole country and even the world, because food security is of extreme importance. The farmers are doing their part of it by cultivating their fields. The Prime Minister said at a time when the farmers of the country are shouldering that responsibility with commitment, the public servants must provide them the essential inputs and the need of support and strength through District Secretariat, Divisional Secretariat levels and even at the level of Grama Niladhari.

Similarly, the intervention in maintaining other related crop production sectors is also important. The Prime Minister stressed the importance of increasing agricultural growth. “The economy, which crashed last year, is now on the recovery and the public sector officers have a major responsibility to speed up economic activities as administrators of the governing machinery. There are 10,100 schools in the country and half of them have 1 to 12 acres of land. These lands must be used to grow crops. There are no surveys on home gardens in the schools, at least as pilot projects. The public officers must look into this as it is your responsibility to inspect if the policy of utilizing every inch of uncultivated land for growing crops is being implemented properly,” he said.

Referring to the public service manpower, the Prime Minister pointed out that there is a large surplus in the service to fill the vacancies caused by officers retiring at the end of last year. This Government gave jobs to 56,000 graduates. Twenty four thousand of them have been deployed to the education sector as teachers. Many others were also given jobs in the government service. They are in the district offices. They must be utilized for the new programme to grow crops,” he said.

Robert K. Greenleaf coined the term ‘servant leader’ in 1970 when he published his essay ‘The Servant as Leader.’ He says, “It is important to note that servant leadership can exist at all levels of an organisation. Some public service involves working directly with the people living in communities, while others may solely work with their teams in the organisation. In both settings, public servants can embrace the principles of servant leadership.”

Public servants are often expected to be inspirational individuals who motivate their teams or their communities. An inspired team or community member is more likely to achieve growth. How exactly can a public servant be inspirational in building community? Some people have natural charisma, but this is also something that can be cultivated. One way to inspire others is to lead by example, such as by demonstrating a careful commitment to ethical conduct. Someone who leads and places himself or herself in the same situations as others can inspire others.

As the Prime Minister said in his speech, while the plans have been formulated, their implementation is the highest responsibility placed on the public servants. “The President has already appointed a District Development Committee Chairman for every District Secretariat and such Chairmen were appointed to 95% of Divisional Secretariats of the country. In addition to that extra members of Parliament have been appointed to the committee of food security,” he pointed out. “It’s our ardent duty to identify the drawbacks and guide the process of transferring each and every inch of land in the island into productive means. If that happens we can add strength to the economy,” he said.

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