Ensuring financial discipline | Daily News

Ensuring financial discipline

The decision taken by the Cabinet to prohibit recruitments to public and semi-government institutions above the approved cadre is to be commended. In fact the move was long overdue. It was recently reported that there were over 30,000 ‘extras’ in the public sector who were whiling away their time without work but paid for by the taxpayers’ money. This, out of a total of 1.1 million public sector employees. No doubt, these additional hands are the recruits of politicians, who think they have a license to treat the public sector as their private property. Both main political parties should take responsibility for the sad plight of our state institutions.

The decision to hold the heads of departments responsible for any recruitments outside the approved cadre too is a move in the right direction. This will now give these department heads the necessary cover to refuse accommodating requests for recruitments from politicians. This is because the department heads will now be asked to pay the wages of these additional hands out of their own pockets, in terms of another Cabinet decision taken on the same issue. The rule will apply down the line to include provincial councils and local government institutions as well.

A circular issued in this regard also states that the Secretary to the line Ministry, Chief Secretary to the Provincial Council, Head of the Department and the Head of the Finance Unit of the relevant institutions will be responsible for any employee recruitment against the laid down instructions.

In another welcome move, the Government, through the circular, has also sought information on increased salaries and allowance paid to employees of public sector institutions without obtaining recommendations from the National Salaries and Cadre Commission and prior Treasury approval. This move too should have been implemented much earlier. Had this been done before, the Treasury could have saved much Viz. the astronomical salaries and the cost of perks granted to some of the former Sri Lankan airlines’ top staff. The move would also prevent salary anomalies and the heads of departments playing favourites by granting disproportionate pay rises to selected staff while leaving out others. It would also result in a contended workforce who would now be assured of non-discrimination.

Be that as it may, it would also have been ideal if this regulation was to be applied across the board. Why also not bring in parliament into the ambit? At present there is no cap on the salary limits of parliamentarians. This also applies to their perks. The allowances being paid to MPs appear to be on an upward swing with regular monotony. In addition the government is also now saddled with an additional 10,000 local government members, following the recent LG elections. If the whole idea is to trim the fat in state institutions, this state of affairs fail to bear scrutiny.

The state service as a whole should be considered as a single unit and the rule applied to include even the very top. We say this today as there are countless Presidential Advisors and advisors even to ministers. There certainly would be no issue if such advisors are picked on merit so that their advice would be beneficial to the country. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had ‘advisors’ for a myriad of subjects including a team of Buddhist monks to advise him on Buddhist affairs, when one would have thought that Rajapaksa would be the last person to need advise on this score, given his perennial presence at temples.

In the meantime, JHU parliamentarian the Ven. Athureliye Rathana says he is quitting the post of Presidential Advisor since no advise is being sought from him. It is not known if the Ven. Thera was paid for his ‘advisory services’. If so it is money down the drain since there was no value for money given, according the Ven. Thera’s own admission.

Measures should also be devised to ensure that the huge salaries being paid to heads of state institutions and top executives are justified, and, above all, if they are qualified for the posts they hold. These include our foreign envoys. We say this because most of our so called ambassadors are, or had been, proven failures and what is more a liability to the state, going by what is being unraveled now. Some of our embassies too are overstaffed and it would be ideal if this regulation is employed to cover our foreign embassies as well.

The government has at last seen the need to reduce the financial strain which has been over-burdening most of our state institutions. This, no doubt, is a small measure to start with, considering the financial mire into which some of our state institutions have plunged into. But on the long run, the new regulations, as a cost cutting measure, would certainly have its impact in bringing financial stability to our ailing public sector institutions.

The bane of our country’s public sector institutions has all along been financial indiscipline. Politicians, to a large degree, should take the blame for this state of affairs. Let no politician, at least now, run roughshod over this new measure.


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