A prudent move | Daily News

A prudent move

The decision taken by the Government to henceforth appoint only professionally qualified individuals to head corporations and statutory bodies, no doubt, would be welcomed by all those who desire a quality service from state institutions. Today what we largely have are square pegs in round holes at the helm of affairs in many a Government body resulting in mediocrity, not to mention waste and corruption. In most instances our state bodies are overstaffed with some bursting at the seams.

Perhaps it is due to this reason that recently a Cabinet circular was issued to the effect that section heads at Government Departments and Corporations should pay the salaries of excess staff under them. It is not known if this rule was implemented, but it appears that inefficiency in Government Departments has reached a stage where drastic action was deemed necessary.

Of course the rot set in the early 60s when, following the abortive coup, the Government of the day brought the country’s civil service under its tutelage. From then on, ruling party politicians started interfering in the public service, including recruitments, resulting in the breakdown in discipline all round. Since then, it had been downhill all along and it is in this context that the decision of the Government to staff the public service with qualified and competent personnel has to be welcomed.

According to a front page story we carried in yesterday’s edition, Cabinet approval had been granted to appoint experienced and qualified professionals as Board Chairpersons and members. Co-Cabinet spokesman, Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said the Government has placed emphasis on appointing experienced and qualified professionals as Chairpersons and Director Board Members to accomplish the objectives and goals of Statutory Boards. He also said that the Cabinet approved the proposal of President Maithripala Sirisena to appoint a committee chaired by the Presidential Secretary.

The committee will present recommendations, based on the criteria approved earlier by the Cabinet enabling respective ministers to appoint degree holders of Sri Lankan or recognized foreign universities, or persons possessing recognized professional qualifications and professional experience in respective fields.

This, no doubt will be a breath of fresh air that is blown into our largely ailing and tottering Government Departments that have acquired a reputation over the years of being lethargic, indifferent, incompetent and of being receptacles of unbridled corruption.

It needs no elaboration that the public service is highly politicized today with all appointments done at the pleasure of ruling party politicians. In the process qualifications, competence and ability naturally are not taken into consideration with toadies and sycophants occupying responsible positions in statutory boards and corporations. The actions of these misfits, over the years, have caused much harm to the State bodes they were lording over. Not only that, these ignoramuses bring with them their supporters and most often their relatives into the institutions headed by them who are as ignorant as they are, compounding the problem. The various commissions appointed under past governments to probe the misdeeds of their predecessors show the degree to which ruling politicians abused State bodies for their benefit.

Of course all parties are guilty of this crime, for a crime it certainly is when one considers how profit making State institutions were run to the ground by corruption and mismanagement by these personages. The plight that has befallen State bodies such as the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, the CEB and the national carrier is only a microcosm of the vast plunder that has been going on unchecked under all administrations plunging these bodies into financial hellholes. Not only that, under the Yahapalanaya Government recruitment of supporters went on an unprecedented scale, what with Ministers representing both sides loading the institutions under their ministries with deadwood.

True, politicians are obliged to reward their supporters to whom they owe their position, but this should not be at the expense of the taxpayer. It need not be emphasized that the criteria of recruitment should always be qualifications and it is heartening that the present Government has come round to this thinking departing from the past practice.

Not just in state bodies. Professionalism should also be manifest in all other branches of Government, particularly our foreign service. We say this because our diplomatic service, most notably in recent times, had also been marked by mediocrity and what is worst questionable conduct by some of our envoys. This is because most of our foreign desks were occupied by misfits recruited based on family ties and political loyalty. Most of these appointees are clueless as to their functions and are all at sea. The situation was so bad that Foreign Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama had to read the riot act to get our envoys in the Western Capitals to reverse the adverse travel advisories issued against Sri Lanka in these countries following the recent political developments. With the changes contemplated, it is hoped that only career diplomats would be preferred from here on. A professional State service and a foreign service are essential to give a good image to the country.

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