I have sent the letter below to the Minister of Good Governance, along with the schedule beneath it. I realized how appalling the situation was when I was Secretary to a Ministry, and the personal staff ran riot (including ensuring the election of Mr Thevarapperuma).
Dear Mr Jayasuriya,
I had written to you before about simple measures that could be taken to promote Good Governance and I hope we might be able to meet soon to take things forward, There seems to be too little interest in this at present, and that might lead to the people losing faith in us.
I gather the JVP has already drafted a Code of Conduct, and I am sorry this has not been shared with party leaders and with parliamentarians in general. But pending that, I will send you some ideas which I hope will be incorporated. My first suggestions are with regard to Personal Staff and perks given to Ministers, which are often not used for Ministry work. I realized how bad the situation was when the Secretary of the Ministry I held commended my staff. None of them is related to me, and they have all been working full time at the Ministry since I took up responsibilities.
Let me add that, if the changes I suggest below in the Schedule are made, I will not take advantage of the additional support for Parliamentarians. Otherwise it will be claimed that I would like to get back some of the advantages I have given up in resigning from the Ministry – though obviously I do not need them since I do not have a constituency.
The cost to the country will be about the same, and more Parliamentarians will have less incentive to obtain executive office for the sake of the perks and privileges.
Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP
One of the reasons for everyone wanting to be a Minister is the perks Ministers enjoy. These are often used for personal gain, but in addition they are used for political advantage. This also badly affects productive work. The general principle followed it seems, in forming a Cabinet, is not to select those who understand the subjects allocated to them, but rather to give portfolios for the purpose of ensuring electoral success – both to keep people happy so they will not change sides, and to give them resources to fight elections.
The Minister for Good Governance thought we have an unfortunate political culture and that it would be difficult to change, but we must start now. I would suggest therefore that we adopt a principle of distinguishing between the executive and the Parliamentary roles of politicians and limit them using Ministry resources for electoral or personal purposes. I believe there will be less need of excessive resources when we change the electoral system. But even then, what we should do is give ordinary Parliamentarians a bit more, while cutting down on the waste now.
These measures will also reduce the assumption that the main purpose of a Ministry is to be able to give jobs to people, with little regard for qualifications or ability.
I therefore suggest the following –
- Members of the Executive shall not use their offices or the equipment and services they are given for electoral purposes
- The personal staff of Ministers shall be limited to only such numbers as are essential for the fulfilment of their executive responsibilities. All such staff will be required to provide monthly reports on their productivity to the Secretary of the Ministry which pays their salaries.
- However, given the personal and political needs of all Parliamentarians, their personal staff may be increased as follows –
2 coordinating secretaries instead of 1
1 research officer as now
1 private secretary as now
2 drivers instead of 1
1 office aide as now
This gives them a total of 7 instead of 5.
They should also be given a vehicle for their use. This should take the place of the permits which are now readily abused.
- The personal staff of Ministers should be reduced as follows, and they must all be expected to report to work in the Ministry unless the Minister had given them leave, as informed to the Secretary
1 private secretary as now
1 coordinating secretary instead of 2
1 public relations secretary
No media secretary, the work should be done by the Ministry media personnel, who should be selected in accordance with clear criteria
2 drivers, without provision for a driver for a back up vehicle. If needed, such a driver should be taken from the Ministry pool.
1 office aide instead of 2, since the Ministry staff can be allocated if needed.
2 management assistants instead of 5. At least one of those should be functional in the Official Language which is not that of the Minister. Any further assistance may be provided by regular Ministry staff.
This gives them a total of 8 instead of 13.
5. The Minister should have at most 2 vehicles. Personal staff should have at most 2 vehicles rather than the 5 that are now available.
6. The qualifications of all personal staff paid by government Ministries should be made known to the public, along with the responsibilities entrusted to them.