Home » Changing the ‘burden’ into ‘essential’

Changing the ‘burden’ into ‘essential’

by Gayan Abeykoon
November 20, 2023 1:30 am 0 comment

President Ranil Wickremesinghe increased the Cost of Living allowance of public servants from Rs. 7800 to Rs 17800 from the 2024 budget. Without being thankful to the President some trade unionists, especially in the education sector try to sabotage the country and delay the right to education of children by launching various trade union actions. Here is the real face of public servants and the ordinary people’s opinion on them.

Last week one popular Sinhala newspaper carried an interesting story. According to that news item, Rs. 30 million worth Fingerprint Machines are decaying at a corner of the Health Ministry without using because the health workers do not `agree’ to mark their daily attendance using the fingerprint machines. This had been revealed during a meeting of the Parliament Sub Committee appointed by the Committee On Public Accounts (COPA). The state does not need the consent of the public servants to do anything as long as they are bound to their duties!

It is very interesting to discuss this issue because the entire country knows what is going on in the state sector, but no one comes forward and speaks about it openly because there are public servants in almost every Sri Lankan family. But we have to discuss this issue because of the gap between the number of public sector employees and private sector employees. While the public sector has just 1.5 million workers, the private sector has over 8 million employees. This is why we talk about this issue today.

Why do health workers not agree to sign in and sign out using the fingerprint machines while some other public sector employees and all private sector employees agree to sign in and sign out using fingerprint machines? Why? The ordinary people of Sri Lanka exactly know why.

It is very interesting to see what has been happening in various state health institutions and all the other state offices for the last several decades. Those employees come and sign in an Attendance Register. If there are 100 employees in that specific department, all of them come before 8.30 am in the morning and sign off at 4.30 pm in the evening according to their attendance marked in the Attendance Registry and not according to what recorded in CCTV camera system.

They do it like this. The first employee who comes to office in the morning around 8.25 or so puts his/her in time as 6.30 am. The second employee who comes around 8.30 or 8.35 puts his/her in time as 6.33 am. Using this method all 100 employees can put their sign in time before 8.30 am in the morning. The same cunning method used in the evening to sign off. The first employee who signs off at 1.00 pm or so put his/her sign off time as 4.30 pm and the second employee who signs off around 1.30 pm or so puts his/her sign off time as 4.32 pm. This way all employees can mark their sign off time after 4.30 pm.

The story of a female graduate entering into the public sector through a state health institution, or any other office tells the entire story. She gets the job, gets married and becomes pregnant. She stays at home with the full salary for four long months. Then she comes to work and gets two hours per day for one year to feed the baby. Then she obtains the distress loan, Agrahara Insurance benefits and all the other benefits available to her. She spends four hours from her eight-hour duty every day to get late to report for duty, lunch, morning and evening tea, make up, using social media, chatting with friends around her and over the phone, shopping etc and works only four hours or less. Then she goes on maternity leave for the second and maybe for the fourth time!

Then what about the male public servants attached to the state health sector? Do they work? No. They do not work. They work only if they have some extra time before signing off. They have a lot of private work to do during their official duty hours and some of them are taking children from the school, dropping them at tuition classes, go to banks, go to various other places to pay bills, go to other state institutions to get done various things, etc.

Some of them use illicit drugs (in some state hospitals), some sell illicit drugs (in some state hospitals), some steal (attendants), some (nurses) ill-treat innocent poor helpless patients and give wrong injections or wrong quantities of injections, some (some doctors) amputate the wrong hands and legs of innocent poor patients, many claim overtime without doing any official duties, many take bribes from innocent poor people who seek the services of various state health institutions such as main state hospitals.

It is the family members, relations, friends and guardians of innocent poor patients who do duties of state hospital attendants such as handling wheelchairs, pushing patients’ beds from one place to another, transporting medical reports from one place to another, etc. Attendants have their own private `duties’ and they work only when offered bribes.

But even after marking their attendance on fingerprint machines, the private sector health workers offer royal treatment to their customers who are rich patients. They never ill-treat patients. On the other hand they know exactly what happens to them if they ill-treat patients.

The fingerprint machines prevent state health workers from following their cunning method because the fingerprint machine marks the exact time of the day and not the time those employees want. If an employee reports to work at 10.00 am in the morning, the fingerprint machine marks the in time as 10.00 am. If any employee signs out at 1.30 pm, the fingerprint machine marks the out time as 1.30 pm. This way all the employees need to report to work on time and sign off on time. Otherwise their short leave and all the other types of leave cut according to the time they get late or depart early.

This is the one and only reason health workers in the state sector reject fingerprint machines to record their attendance. But the story is totally different in the private health sector. All health workers in the private sector mark their attendance using fingerprint machines and sometimes face recognition machines. There is no way of cheating at all for them and the supermarket chains never offer them goods at a concessionary price because they mark their attendance using fingerprint machines! They pay the same price paid by the public servants to buy various commodities.

The entire public sector is based on one thing, and it is cheating while the entire private sector is based on hard and honest work. This is the one and only difference between the public sector and the private sector in Sri Lanka. State sector employees get paid for marking `in’ and `out’ and private sector employees get paid for the workload they complete every month plus marking attendance on the fingerprint machine.

While all Governments offer various salary increases such as Rs. 15,000, Rs. 10,000 etc to the public sector time to time even without demanding (trade unions demand salary increases exactly knowing that the Governments increase salaries through budgets for sure), the private sector employees get nothing but annual pay hike which is NOT more than Rs. 1500 which is granted according to the Collective Agreements. But they pay the same prices for the same goods at same shops just as public servants.

We discussed this issue today in order to suggest certain changes that can help the Government to accelerate the economic growth of the country in addition to the many steps taken through the 2024 budget. Sri Lanka cannot walk forward any longer ignoring the burden of the public sector put on the private sector. The new Health Minister need to take toughest possible actions against all types of culprits and start using fingerprint machines to record attendance of all health workers from today no matter whether they are minor workers, executives, directors or heads of departments.

Cheating will take Sri Lanka nowhere. It is the responsibility of all state authorities not let public servants to cheat. There are many simple solutions that can apply without spending a cent to do this. One such step is using the fingerprint machines which are decaying at corners at various state offices.

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