Towards a more productive Public Service | Daily News

Towards a more productive Public Service

United Nations Public Service Day – June 23
Govt. employees at work.
Govt. employees at work.

Sri Lanka has 1.7 million Public Servants at present. But, Sri Lanka actually needs only 700,000 Public Servants. There is one Public Servant for every 18 Sri Lankans. The Sri Lanka Public Service started to get politicized with the introduction of the 1978 Constitution and this process was accelerated after 2009. If anyone sincerely needs to depoliticize the Public Service, he/she needs to amend Article 55 (2) of the current 1978 Constitution.

When it comes to Sri Lanka, unfortunately, the Public Service does not have a high popularity and a good image among the ordinary people. The most common accusations pointed at Sri Lankan Public Servants are negligence and delay in performing their services and wasting the valuable time and money of the public, making it impossible to get things done at Public Offices by giving all lame excuses and pointing out various rules, regulations and demanding for formal documents that cannot be provided at all or cannot be provided within a short time, doing favours for relations, friends, contacts of politicians etc, not answering telephone calls or just forwarding the call here and there without attending to them, especially during difficult times like during the COVID-19 outbreak and fuel crisis when there is inadequate transport facilities.

Some Public Servants use State properties, such as vehicles, stationary, photocopy machines etc. for their personal use.


The Sri Lankan public regularly witnesses many other shortcomings on the part of the 1.7 million cadres of public which has led the public to believe that the

Public Servants take an oath to serve diligently.

Public Service of Sri Lanka is useless and only a system that wastes money and all the other resources of the country. It is very interesting to see what the public witness in Public Services. When people visit Government offices to get various things done, they spend a lot of time there watching what is going on inside these offices. What they see is not something positive.

The people see how Public Servants function when they visit Public Offices to get their tasks attended to. On most occasions, Public Servants are usually late for work or do not report to work at all. This is a regular occurrence. This is because they enjoy 42 days of leave per year in addition to public holidays. They, especially, the female Public Servants spend more than 15 minutes getting ready to put on their make-up and do their hair re-styling etc. before starting work and before signing off for the day. They spend at least 30 minutes or more every day on make-up, hair etc. Some Public Servants spend two hours of their time for lunch and tea, twice in the morning and evening. Some Public Servants claim overtime without doing anything. What they do on the pretext of doing overtime is spending time on social media such as Facebook, surfing the internet for their private purposes, chatting with other employees, going out for their personal errands and doing their private work.

The public blames doctors and teachers for some other things. The people say some doctors pay more attention to private practice and patients who pay them and channel them while some teachers pay more attention to the children who receive private tuition from them. The people also say that constant strikes launched by them are a waste of public money.

When compared with the Private Sector in Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan Public Servants enjoy a luxurious life with salaries paid to them no matter whether they deliver a satisfactory service or not, 42 paid leave while teachers enjoy another three months of paid vacations, the State Medical Insurance Scheme (Agrahaara) which offers up to Rs.350,000 annual cover plus many other benefits, various scholarships and other official foreign tours, etc. In addition some sections in the Public Service have special benefits for the employees and their families. Employees attached to Port, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), Water Board etc. have several special benefits.

Certain sections of the Sri Lankan Public Service such as the Armed Forces, health staff etc. worked 24 X 7 in March last year with the outbreak of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka. Since that day, all members of those sections in the Public Service still work without a break.

Quality Service

The nation should salute them on this day and support as a means of showing their gratitude for their untiring services. But unfortunately, the Sri Lankan public does not show due respect and does not support them during these tough times where there are queues for almost everything. It is the responsibility of the people and the State to support them to perform their official duties.

The Public Service can create a positive image or a negative image in the minds of the people on whatever Government governs the country at that specific time. Therefore, it is essential to make sure that the Public Service delivers a quality service as demanded by the people on time. The Governments that come into power from time to time should look after the Public and not the Public Servants. Benefits should be given to the Public and not for the Public Servants. Public Servants should be provided all the required facilities to carry out their official duties smoothly.

The Public Service Commission of Sri Lanka is a constitutionally enshrined body, which is answerable to Parliament in relation to the appointment, promotion, transfer, removal and exercise of disciplinary control over Public Officers. The vision of the PSC Public Service Commission of Sri Lanka is a dedicated Public Service for the nation’s excellence. The mission of it is to establish and promote an efficient, disciplined and contented Public Service to serve the public with fairness, transparency and consistency.

The objectives of the Public Service Commission of Sri Lanka are to establish, improve and sustain the efficiency and effectiveness of the human resource by upholding standards, policies, guidelines and rules governing the appointments, promotions and disciplinary control of the Public Service, to be sensitive to the needs of the changing environment in order to support the process of decision making for continued progression in Public Service, to be responsive to the grievances of the Public Officers aggrieved by orders of the delegated authorities in consideration of the interests of both parties and making fair and correct decisions, to establish a recognized career path for the Public Officers in order to ensure the career development of individuals with exposure to varied skills, knowledge and experience with a view to retaining the most appropriate officers in service by motivation and job satisfaction and to create a disciplined Public Officer adhering to professional ethics void of acts of misconduct.

Accordingly, this Commission presently discharges the duties of appointment, promotion, transfer, disciplinary control and dismissal from service of all other Public Officers as a whole numbering approximately one million including the officers in the field of education in the Provincial Councils except the officers appointed by the President and the Cabinet of Ministers and officers in three Armed Forces.

The United Nations Public Service Day is celebrated on June 23 every year. The UN Public Service Day was designated by the United Nations General Assembly’s resolution A/RES/57/277 of 2003, to “celebrate the value and virtue of Public service to the community”. The United Nations Economic and Social Council established that the United Nations Public Service Awards be bestowed on Public Service Day for contributions made to the cause of enhancing the role, prestige, and visibility of the Public Service.

The day also marks the anniversary of the date when the International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted the Convention on Labour Relations (Public Service), 1978 (No. 151). This Convention is a framework for determining working conditions of all civil servants across the world.

A Public Service is a service intended to serve all members of a community. The term is associated with a social consensus (usually expressed through democratic elections) that certain services should be available to all, regardless of income, physical ability or mental acuity.

Public Service makes the State visible to its citizens, often forming the principal tangible link between Governments and their people. Public Services carry and diffuse the values of the new nations and contribute to the bonding between the State and citizens.

In short, Public Servants see their work as important for a wide range of reasons—from helping to uphold our democracy to making one person’s day slightly better. But no matter why federal employees find their work important, they have all committed their lives to Public Service—and that is worth honouring.

Today’s Public Servants must have an openness to learn, a desire to help others, an ability to engage people and an understanding of commercialism in the context of the Public sector.

Public Servants shall be guided in their work and their professional conduct by a balanced framework of Public Service values: democratic, professional, ethical and people values. These families of values are not distinct but overlap. They are perspectives from which to observe the universe of Public Service values.



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