Opinion: Attitude

POSTED: 08/14/13 3:13 PM

Civil servants do not seem to understand what they are: servants. That impression was once more emphasized by Ombudsman Dr. Nilda Arduin yesterday when she spoke about workshops her office is giving to civil servants.

The standard of proper conduct is the subject of these workshops. The Ombudsman made an interesting remark in this context. She said that some (but not all) civil servants have every now and then an attitude as if they are the fourth power.

The power of the civil service is, more generally speaking, a global phenomenon. Ministers come and go, but civil servants have their butts firmly glued to their chairs. They are not going anywhere and no minister is going to tell them what to do.

This is how business permits, building permits and any other piece of government-issued paperwork at times dole through an impenetrable system like forever, leaving citizens that depend on these documents at a total loss.

This is of course not how things should be. Unfortunately, this is how things are, and not only in St. Maarten. That things are bad elsewhere is obviously no excuse for following such bad examples.

As long as the improvement of the inner workings in the civil service depends on civil servants nothing will ever change. These government employees have an almost guaranteed job for life if we leave out sexual assaults on ministers or colleagues and grand theft, so why would they bother to excel? There simply is no personal incentive for such behavior.

As long as the management of the ministries does not come up with a system that makes it worth their while, civil servants will keep behaving like, well, like civil servants, and citizens will be condemned to wait forever for whatever paperwork they need.

It does not take a rocket scientist to understand this. So that brings us back to that good old foolproof yard stick for results. Remember? Intention + Action = Result.

It is fair to say that the civil service is a lot of things but not that it is efficient. The intention of successive government and parliaments has been to make the civil service efficient. (Politicians often speak about making the service more efficient, but that is nonsense: it is not possible to make something that is already efficient more efficient).

The problem has therefore been identified on different levels and on different levels statements have been made: we have to do something about this.

Sure. Where are the results? Since we do not see them, there are two possibilities. The first one is that nobody has taken any meaningful action to achieve the goal of an efficient government apparatus. The second option is that the proclaimed intention is false and that politicians only say they want an efficient civil service but that they are not serious about it.

Take your pick. Next year there are elections.

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