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CaptureTo help the deliberations of the committee appointed by the National Human Resources Development Council to recommend new ways of working in the Public Sector, I requested the assistance of several distinguished public servants of past vintages. These ranged from the time in which recruitment was to the old Civil Service to those who had retired very recently.

Not all responded, but those who did were of the highest calibre and continue to be respected by new generations of both administrators and politicians. Interestingly enough, while commenting on the issues we had raised in the draft concept paper, they also introduced some sharp new perspectives.

The most stringent criticism was with regard to the packing of the public service for political reasons. One former Secretary noted that ‘The unsustainable and highly politicized practice of treating the public sector institutions…as a means to solve unemployment problems through ‘sponsored employment’ should cease forthwith.’ Another put it even more bluntly – ‘Don’t treat the public sector as a refuge for unemployed graduates’.

One of them noted the side effects of such practices. In addition to the wasteful costs involved, he referred to ‘inefficiencies and unnecessary administrative burdens. Idle people constitute a disturbance to people who are working and generate additional problems’. This indeed was something I had practical experience of, and had pointed out in my reports written after Divisional Secretariat Reconciliation meetings. I found several Secretariats full of youngsters with nowhere to sit and nothing to do, with the poor Divisional Secretary, already over-burdened, having to find space and occupation for them. And of course the purely political nature of the exercise was made abundantly clear by the fact that these new recruits had received hardly any training, and no effort was made to ensure productive activity in coordination with previously employed personnel. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

November 2019
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