Eliminating waste and corruption
In a telling indictment on the
state of affairs in public sector institutions Public
Adminstration Secretary D. Dissanayake has pointed out that as
much as 15 per cent of funds allocated to State bodies by the
national budget is fritted away on overtime payments, travelling
costs and stationary,
The issue assumes significance in the wake of efforts by the
Government to cut down on waste as reminded at every turn by
Government Ministers at various opening ceremonies.
The laissez-faire attitude of State sector employees
numbering nearly one million to Government resources is all too
well known to warrant elaboration. This has proved to be the
bane of our public service which in turn has spawned lethargy
and inefficiency rightly earning for it the appellation “white
Time was when Sri Lanka’s public service was held in high
esteem and was considered one of the best in South Asia, noted
for its disciplined work force and exacting standards. This was
when the public sector was shorn off political influence where
officials called the shots.
Things took a turn for the worse with political tentacles
gradually taking hold of the public sector signalling the
downfall of the country’s administrative machine. Discipline was
thrown into the winds with Government functionaries owing their
appointments to politicians looking the other way as subordinate
staff made merry. Financial rules were openly flouted from the
highest official to the lowly peon all joining in the gravy
Workers who idled in their seats all week made it a habit to
work on weekends and holidays to claim overtime while stringent
safeguards that were in place to avoid profligacy were ignored
at great cost to the State.
The subject of overtime has always been a sore point with
authorities who are compelled to play safe fearing strike action
which has emboldened the work force to demand more privileges
out of proportion to their real output.
Hence it is high time that the Government took measures to
instill a proper work ethic among Government servants who have
today taken State institutions for granted and are milking them
dry of their resources with no line of responsibility to account
for any lapses.
Ideally the State sector should give the lead in the
Government’s call for sacrifices in the midst of the constraints
experienced by the State which is compelled to fight terrorism
while being economically assailed on various fronts by rising
fuel prices and other cost escalations.
We are not aware whether the Charter introduced by Minister
Karu Jayasuriya to be followed by Government Departments has any
reference to austerity measures. If not this feature needs to be
introduced to spur the elimination of waste.
Time was when a Government clerk had to produce the empty
cylinder of his ball pen to receive a new one. We are not aware
wether such practices still exist. However going by the stories
of waste and corruption in Government Departments a small thing
like this would hardly figure in the equation.
Therefore an all out campaign should be launched to halt the
rot in State sector hitherto being treated as a milch cow by all
According to the Secretary, between 10 to 12 per cent of
public sector employees take bribes.
Of course the cancer of bribe taking in state Departments is
too deep rooted to expect overnight remedies.
More or less there is trickle down effect, i.e. when the low
functionary is aware that his boss is on the take he would salve
his conscience and engage in the same.
This is why the Government must take stringent measures to
deal with big wigs accused of bribery before the habit
percolates to the lower ranks.
Turning a blind eye to the issue can only worsen the
situation.The Bribery Commission should be equipped with
additional staff and resources to keep tabs on Government
Above all, immediate steps are needed to deal with the hydra
headed monster that has lain seige to the State sector eating
into its vitals and imposing a huge liability on the State.