Opinion: A special breed (Civil Servants)

POSTED: 10/26/11 11:36 AM

Civil servants are a special breed. Their place of work – yep, the civil service – is unique as well in the sense that it seems to have an autonomous ability to grow. Once a civil servant is on the payroll, he is never going away again. These government grunts have as much job protection as politicians, and this gives them the upper hand over their superiors.

It is one of the reasons why civil services the world over suck (excuse our French here). The reason for this structural malfunctioning is easily explained. Civil servants have no incentive to give their best; they have no incentive to work harder, to be friendly, or to do as they are told.

This is why civil servants would not survive a single day in the private sector, where an employer would kick their heinies so fast if they failed to do what they are paid for that they wouldn’t know what’s happening to them.

Parliamentarian Romain Laville has suggested sending home civil servants who do not execute the vision of their ministers. Well, we figure that civil servants would love this. They’d be home doing nothing, while they still receive their salary. Wonderful!

Ah no, Laville later added, they would be home without pay of course.

Oops, maybe Laville should have read the LMA, the ordinance that regulates rights and duties of civil servants.

That ordinance states in article 86 that civil servants who do not meet their obligations can be disciplined by the competent authority – we assume this is the Secretary General of the Ministry where the civil servant works.

Neglect of duty is described in the article as violating any regulation like doing or not doing something a good civil servant ought to do or refrain from in similar circumstances.

While all these rules are written in legalese, the bottom line is this: a civil servant who breaks the rules can face disciplinary measures. The operative word here is can; it would have been much better if the ordinance had phrased this differently, for instance by replacing can with will. Now the possibility is real that civil servants who break the rules, that they are called on it and that the competent authority does nothing about it because the civil servant happens to be a neighbor or a family member.

Laville ought to look therefore at the fine print of the LMA before making populist statements. Obviously, sending people home is not the first line of action for breaking the rules. The LMA mentions nine options. The first one is a written warning, the last one dismissal.

In between are other options like withholding overtime pay, a fine, withholding of salary, monetary demotion, a ban from promotion, demotion in rank, and temporary suspension combined with withholding pay.

The problem here is that the competent authorities can take these measures, but they don’t have to. This is the same silly rule that hampers action against civil servants that have side jobs. Everybody knows this is happening, but nobody bothers to take action. Yes, the competent authorities can take action if the side job is considered a conflict of interest. The reality is however, that this never happens.

An interesting bone to chew on for MP Laville.

Did you like this? Share it:
Opinion: A special breed (Civil Servants) by

Comments are closed.