Sunday, December 27, 2015


More jobs for ultra-Orthodox

JERUSALEM (December 20): A strategy announced by the Israeli Cabinet will result in more members of the country’s ultra-Orthodox community finding work in the Public Service.

Announcing the move, Minister for Negev, Galilee and Periphery Development, Aryeh Deri, who is also the leader of the of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, said the scheme was a “first-of-its-kind plan in which the Government opens the door to the ultra-Orthodox population and places them in Civil Service jobs.”

He said that for decades there had been complaints from the ultra-Orthodox that they had been unsuccessful in being accepted for jobs in the Public Service, despite having served in the Defence Force and having a range of academic degrees.

The new plan would result in hundreds of ultra-Orthodox workers integrated into the Public Service by 2020.


Mixed payments for Christmas cheer

WELLINGTON (December 24): Departmental Christmas party budgets, released under the Official Information Act have revealed a sad lack of celebration for many New Zealand Public Servants.

While some Department workers were shouted a fair Christmas party, with budgets up to $NZ25 ($A23.50) per head, others were forced to pay for their own Christmas parties this year and some went without completely.

Employees at the Ministry of Social Development had to pay for their own party and the majority of costs for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade party were covered by staff fundraising and a $NZ25 ticket price.

The Defence Force had no party at all. "In lieu, the Chief of Defence will be visiting each area/workplace to provide a more personal Christmas message," a spokesperson said.


Really sorry, but you’ve got to go

MALE (December 21): The President of the Maldives said he hated having to sack dozens of Public Servants from the Ministry of Finance, but it wasn’t his fault.

Instead, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom blamed the Civic Service Commission for not keeping proper records of the numbers employed at the Ministry.

A Ministry official said 75 staff would go and the Foreign Loan and Internal Auditing sections would be closed.

Hinting that there was more to come, President Yameen said several Ministries had established permanent sections which functioned only once in every two or three years.


Double dippers targeted

LONDON (December 20): Senior United Kingdom Public Servants will now have to pay back their exit payments, known as Golden Parachutes , if they then join another Department within 12 months.

New laws are aimed to put a halt to the “revolving door culture that exists in some parts of the public sector”, a Government spokesperson said.

The rules will apply to anyone who had previously been earning £80,000 ($A164,000) or more.

Announcing the move, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Greg Hands said it was  unacceptable that in the past taxpayers have had to fork out for golden parachute payments for highly-paid public sector workers who then went on to get jobs in another part of the public sector.


Pay your bills, Agencies told

ABUJA (December 20): All Federal Nigerian Agencies must immediately settle an “unacceptable” backlog in their electricity bills, the Head of the Public Service has ruled.

Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita said the unpaid bills had resulted in frequent disconnections which disrupted the operations of government.

She asked the management of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company to liaise with her staff and report any further late payments.

“This is unacceptable and it can’t go on,” Mrs Oyo-Ita said.


‘Tightening’ of FoI advocated

LONDON  (December 22): The head of the United Kingdom Public Service, Sir Jeremy Heywood, says he sees no reason to make significant chances to the country’s  Freedom of Information (FoI) Act.

Sir Jeremy has been accused of advocating a watering-down of the public’s right to request information from Whitehall as part of a review into the workings of the Act.

A consultation document has received 30,000 responses to suggestions there should be a charge for FoI requests; making it easier to refuse requests on cost grounds and giving Ministers more powers to veto disclosures.

Senior Whitehall sources said Sir Jeremy was not in favour of either charging for requests or cost limits, but was keen for the legislation to be tightened to make it clear what categories of information should be subject to Ministerial veto.


Pay deal to go to workers

MONTREAL (December 21): Agreement has been reached between the Quebec Government and a coalition of public sector unions over a long-running pay and conditions dispute.

The deal will see a base salary increase of 9.1 per cent over five years. The unions had sought a 13.5 per cent salary increase over three years while the Government had countered with 7.5 per cent over five years.

The retirement age for public sector workers will now be 61 although those with 30 years of service can retire at 60. The union had sought 60 for everyone.

The agreement will be submitted to the different unions for approval in the following weeks. Workers have been without a contract since March 31, leading to months of unrest and strikes.


Private perks stymie jobs drive

DUBLIN (December 27): The Irish public sector, released from the restraints of a recruitment moratorium at last, is nevertheless finding it hard to find recruits.

As one frustrated recruiter put it: “The public sector offers stability, but little else; it struggles to match the type of perks seen in the private sector.”

So acute is the staff shortage in the health sector that the Health Service Executive (HSE) has launched a recruitment drive to attract home 500 nurses and midwives who had left Ireland, with a €1,500 ($A2,263) relocation package, along with funded postgraduate education and nursing registration costs.

The HSE is also expected to introduce a campaign to bring American nursing graduates to Ireland.


Devolution challenges ahead

CARDIFF (December 23): Welsh Public Servants faced big challenges as the Province moved further from dependence on the Government in Westminster, Welsh Permanent Secretary, Sir Derek Jones has said.

Sir Derek said that while uncertainties remained over the next stage of devolution, more responsibilities were coming.

"One challenge will be the creation of a Welsh Treasury against a backdrop of continuing financial restraint.” Sir Derek said.

However, he said that with 16 years of devolved administration under its belt, he was confident the organisation would deliver with its customary responsiveness and professionalism.


PS reject goes on rampage

NEW DELHI (December 23): Distraught at failing an examination to enter the Indian Public Service, Balvinder Singh went on a rampage in the provincial city of Karimnagar, injuring 22 people, including his parents.

The 28-year-old software engineer, who was being treated for depression following his exam failure, took up a sword and went on a stabbing spree. Two policemen suffered wounds when they tried to stop him.

He then attacked anyone in sight, including an auto-rickshaw driver and passers-by. More police were called and Singh was shot, dying of his injuries in hospital.

Friends said it was incomprehensible that Singh should have been so upset as he had a good job as a senior consultant with Oracle Financial Services in Bengaluru.


Reforms — but no job losses

LUSAKA (December 23):  Zambian Public Servants have been assured that proposed reforms to the nation’s Public Service would not result in any job losses.

Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Peter Kasanda said the Government has put in place mechanisms that would safeguard jobs.

“Caution will be exercised in implementing the decentralisation reforms which entail a transfer of staff from the Central Government to Local Councils,” Mr Kasanda said.
He urged trade unions to begin an information campaign on the decentralisation reforms to help promote public awareness of the policy.


Plenty of promises but no money

HARARE (December 26): Public Servants in Zimbabwe had a grim Christmas without pay, with the Government now saying the long delayed December bonus would be paid before the end of the year.

· A    A week ago, Minister for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Prisca Mupfumira, said the Government was “mobilising funds” to pay Public Servants.

However, in a brief statement, which emerged only on Christmas Day, the Treasury said salaries for teachers in December would now be paid on December 29. The rest of the Public Service would be paid on 5 January, 2016.

President Robert Mugabe, who turns 92 in February, has come under criticism for throwing a lavish State banquet for Ministers, legislators and top officials of his Zanu PF Party while Public Servants went unpaid.


 Healthy savings from sick curbs

DUBLIN (December 24): The Irish Department of Public Expenditure and Reform says that sick-leave restrictions introduced for staff in the Public Service in 2014 generated savings of more than €50 million ($A75.4 million).

However, the cost of sick leave across the Public Service, which employs about 300,000 staff, is still almost €320 million ($A483 million) annually.

Under reforms introduced by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, sick leave certified by a doctor for personnel with non-critical illnesses was effectively halved.

Now staff are entitled to three months on full pay, followed by three months on half pay in any four-year period.


Loan repayments ‘impossible’

KUALA LUMPUR (December 24):  Almost 3,000 Malaysian Public Servants are having between 30 per cent and 100 per cent of their salaries deducted to repay student loans.

The Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services said that the excessive deductions were an impossible burden.

“They should have deductions from their salaries according to their ability to pay,” the union said.

The issue has gone viral on the internet but the union said the Public Servants involved were afraid to be named in case they faced disciplinary action.


Broadcast money running out

SARAJEVO (December 22): Concern is mounting in Bosnia and Herzegovina that the country’s public broadcasting system is on the verge of financial collapse.

The crisis has prompted the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Media Freedom Committee to urge the Government in Sarajevo to urgently consider funding reform

Spokesperson, Dunja Mijatović said that for too long the country’s public broadcasting system had faced multiple obstructions stemming from the failure to implement relevant legislation.

The current method of collecting taxes via telephone bills to pay for the system expires on 31 December with no replacement in place.

PS News is in recess until mid-January

Sunday, December 20, 2015


Welsh rule for Wales’s workers

LONDON (December 12): Public Servants working in Wales will need to speak fluent Welsh if they are in jobs where they have to meet the public, a proposed United Kingdom law states.

The same law also requires Public Servants working in face-to face positions in England to be fluent in English.

Further details of the proposals have been revealed in an Immigration Bill, now before Parliament. The new law is likely to come into effect in October 2016.

Currently, private sector providers of public services, or any services which have been outsourced, fall outside the scope of the new legislation. That could change in the future.


Ukraine ditches Soviet shadows

KIEV (December 11): Legislation has passed through the Ukrainian Parliament designed to rebuild the country’s Public Service, finally detaching it from its Soviet past.

Member of Parliament, Alyona Shkrum presented the legislation saying it was an opportunity to make a revolution in the Public Service.

Adoption of the Bill was one of Ukraine’s international obligations, and a condition for the European Union’s further financing of the country.

Under the new law, top Public Service appointments will no longer be divided between political parties under a quota system, but will be made via transparent competition.

A special commission, consisting of social activists, MPs, Government Ministers and members of trade unions, will vet candidates, with Cabinet making the final decision.

Those selected will be banned from joining political parties.


Corbyn’s wisdom passed to PS

LONDON (December 10): Controversial United Kingdom Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn has been paid more than £1,000 ($A2,100) to lecture Public Servants.

Mr Corbyn, who Prime Minister, David Cameron has described as a threat to national security, is reported to have given nine lectures on the workings of Parliament. Sources say other MPs have provided officials with similar guidance.

Along with other MPs, Mr Corbyn, who has never served as a Minister, is also credited with helping the Civil Service Learning organisation write a handbook, Working with Ministers.

The Cabinet Office confirmed Mr Corbyn had been hired to make presentations, a spokesperson saying long-serving MPs from all parties were often invited to speak to groups of Public Servants about the workings of Parliament.


Workers urged to get close to poor

JAMMU (December 11): Young Public Servants in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir have been urged to get closely involved with the problems faced by the people in rural and urban areas.

Governor Narinder Vohra said this would help alleviate the lot of the poor and downtrodden.

“Achieving speedy growth and development in the country needs an efficiently-functioning Public Service to deliver good governance,” Mr Vohra said.

He was surprised to learn that probationary Public Servants were not paid anything and had to pay for their own boarding, lodging and transport arrangements.

“I will take this up with the Chief Minister at our next meeting,” Mr Vohra said.

‘Stop interfering’ MPs told

HONIARA (December 14): Plans to introduce new anti-corruption policies and legislation governing the Solomon Islands Public Service have been welcomed by the Chair of Transparency Solomon Islands, Ruth Liloqula.

However, Ms Liloqula said there would be no meaningful changes if politicians persisted in interfering with the everyday functions of the Public Service.

"At the moment most of those who are sitting in key positions in the Public Service are just not confident to do the right thing because they are frightened they might lose their job,” Ms Liloqula said. 


Sex act leaves Governor red-faced

MADISON (December 16): The Governor of the US State of Wisconsin, Scott Walker thought he was on a winner when he lambasted “archaic” public sector rules for the inability to sack two workers caught having an extramarital sexual relationship on State property during working hours.

However, his public denunciation backfired when it was revealed the pair were independent contractors who could be sacked at any time with no reason given.

A State human rights activist, Susan Crawford, said the pair had in fact received a letter of reprimand. “That was a decision of management which was not forced into it because of any Public Service laws,” Ms Crawford said.   


Maltese cross over ‘trust’ jobs

VALETTA (December 17) A row has broken out over the continuing practice of Maltese Ministers and top Public Servants by-passing Public Service employment screening processes to make appointments “on the basis of trust”.

The Public Service Commission, which in past years has criticised the process, appears to have given up and does not even mention the practice in its end-of-year report. However, journalists on the island are stating the practice is unconstitutional, and should be exposed.

Among employees appointed ‘on trust’ was a dog handler recruited by a former Minister; a ‘China liaison expert’ employed by the Ministry for Education, a full-time driver by the non-executive chairman of the Malta Sports Council and a charwoman employed by Minister for Foreign Affairs, George Vella.

Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat defended Mr Vella’s actions saying he had a right to choose his office cleaner, as he needed to trust them.


President orders hours crackdown

ABUJA (December 16) : Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari  has ordered Public Service head, Winifred Oyo-Ita to take immediate action against acts of indiscipline, from director-level down.

Ms Oyo-Ita said Mr Buhari had made it clear to her that the Federal Government would not tolerate any act of indiscipline from any Public Servant particularly in reporting to work late and leaving before 4pm.

She said the Public Service deserved the greatest attention and that was why concerted efforts were being made by the Government to identify areas of weakness in the service.


‘Secretive’ Government slammed

LONDON (December 15): The former head of the United Kingdom Public Service, Lord Kerslake has criticised attempts by the Government to wind back information released under the Freedom of Information Act.

He accused Ministers of double standards in trying to hold back information while leaking other material to the media.

“The default is to conceal, to hold things back,” Lord Kerslake said.

“We have, in my view, a yawning gap between the governing and the governed in this country. The only way we can restore the trust is to become more accountable, not less. Anything which seems to restrict that accountability is a false move.”


Pay freeze starts to melt

TORONTO (December 16): Senior member of the Ontario Public Service are to get pay rises averaging $C6,905) ($A9,972) as the public sector pay freeze in the Province begins to thaw.

Deputy Premier Deb Matthews said the pay rises, for 8,400 managers, was necessary in order to attract people to the top jobs

There has been a continual brain drain since the freeze began in 2011 with managers leaving for greener pastures in the broader public sector, such as municipal Governments, or in private business.

“With one in five managers being able to retire in the next three years, we need to make sure we are attracting and retaining top talent to fill these roles. Salaries are no longer competitive with the market,” Ms Matthews said.

Salaries for managers range from sub-$C100,000 ($A100,975) to $C300,000 ($A302,975) or more in the cases of a few Deputy Ministers.


Lack of education ‘worrying’

NAIROBI (December 17): A new report has found that less than one third of Kenyan Public Servants have at least a bachelor’s degree.

The rest of the 184,519 Public Service workers have lower qualifications or none at all.

The Public Service Commission's Statutory Annual Report for 2015 describes the situation as “worrisome…signifying very low academic qualifications possessed by most Public Service employees”.

It stated that about 10 per cent of the entire workforce in the Public Service had either primary school certificates or no academic qualifications at all.

The report assesses the extent to which the Public Service has complied with the national and Public Service values and principles.


Not such a role model

CARDIFF (December 21) A United Kingdom city that was held up as a role model for the Welsh Public Service has been listed as having one of the worst education authorities in England.

The Auditor General of Wales, Huw Vaughan Thomas, put forward the Midlands city as a potential role model for Wales in the delivery of public services.

But the former leader of Bridgend Council, Jeff Jones said that Ofsted, the office that monitors educational standards in the UK stated that 5,500 secondary school pupils in Stoke were receiving an inadequate secondary education.

“Perhaps we need some joined-up thinking in the Wales Audit Office,” Mr Jones said.


Authority playing Scrooge

NUKU’ALOFA (December 17): Doubt has been cast over a pre-Christmas pay rise for Tongan Public Servants after the country’s Remuneration Authority said it didn’t agree with the new Cost of Living Allowance passed by Parliament.

Cabinet had originally said the five per cent wage lift would be paid this week, but the Authority said Public Servants’ current salaries were adequate.

The Authority said it would prefer a new structure “that advocates moving towards more relevant indicators of responsibility and performance to drive pay increases”.

Fears of politicised PS

WARSAW (December 20): Legislation that would remove a requirement that the new head of Poland’s Public Service could be a member of a political party, will politicise the Service, critics say.

The Bill would also allow the new head to be appointed from outside the Public Service.

Opposition parties want the Bill thrown out, claiming it would damage the reputation of the Public Service, but it survived its first reading 243 to 166 with 22 abstentions.


'New blood’ call termed ageist

LONDON (December 20): Comments by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) and Public Appointments Service that a recruitment drive would bring “new blood” into the United Kingdom Public Service have fallen foul of the Equality Authority.

The Authority said the wording of the statement was potentially discriminatory as it could “suggest that there is an intention to prefer younger candidates to older ones to fill the advertised positions”.

The warning came after unnamed Public Servants complained about the statement and about an email sent by Jake Byrne, an assistant principal in DPER, which referred to “demographic pressures” on the Public Service due to its age profile.

Public Service News will resume full operations in mid-January