Religion ‘not done’ in public sector
LONDON (January 4): A former senior United Kingdom Public Servant says that Christianity is being subtly squeezed out of the public sector because of a culture which treats speaking about faith as “not the done thing”.
William Nye, now the Church of England’s most senior lay official, said Government Ministers and the general public would be surprised to realise the full extent to which faith was now seen as odd and unusual within the public sector in Britain.
Mr Nye, who spent 20 years in a series of senior Public Service posts before a spell as Principal Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales, recently took over as the Church of England’s Secretary General.
He said Christian Public Servants rarely revealed their beliefs except to close friends for fear of being viewed as biased.
Higher pay to halt brain drain?
BANGKOK (January 4): Faced with a steady flow of talent into the private sector and overseas, the Thai Government is considering raising salaries in the Public Service.
A committee has been set up to look into the possibility of raising the salaries of public officials after 32 Government organisations submitted a petition to Deputy Prime Minister, Wissanu Krea-ngam.
Senior Public Servants currently receive about a five per cent increase in their salaries each year, depending on their level of achievement. However, some public organisations raise wages only every four years.
The committee has been charged with considering all factors, including the state of the national economy, before endorsing an increase.
Complaints against PS revealed
PUTRAJAYA (January 4): The Public Complaints Bureau (PCB) has released a list of the most frequent complaints against the Malaysian Public Service.
A total of 36 per cent of complaints received in the past year concerned late or no action by Government Agencies and Departments, and 13 per cent were about lack of enforcement.
Other complaints filed with PCB included failure to adhere to procedures, unsatisfactory manpower quality, lack of public amenities, unfair action, inadequacies in policy implementation, abuse of power and staff misconduct.
Director-General of the PCB, Datuk Raihan Sharif said the bureau received an average of between 500 and 600 complaints every month which was a significant decrease on the previous four years.
Turkish workers get mosque time
ANKARA (January 5): Turkish Public Servants are to be given time off to attend Friday prayers in mosques, the Government has announced.
Most Middle Eastern Muslim countries have the holy day of Friday as a day off, but Turkey uses the standard Monday-to-Friday working week employed in the West.
The move comes amid criticisms that the Government is imposing a creeping Islamisation on the country, eroding the secular values laid by modern Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
In recent years the Government has lifted bans on women and girls wearing headscarves in schools and the Public Service, has limited alcohol sales and made efforts to ban mixed-sex dormitories at State universities.
Texting trial for services
LONDON (January 5): The United Kingdom Government plans to reduce the need for call centres, face-to-face meetings and other public-facing operations by launching a text message alert service about its public services.
The automated system, called Notify, is similar to that used by online retailers and is designed to save almost £600 million ($A1.2 billion).
Members of the public will receive a text message, email or letter when their car registration is up for renewal, or when student finance applications are being processed.
Other likely uses are for updates on claims for Universal Credit, the Government’s new welfare system, and voter registration applications. Notify is due to be trialled by certain Government services from February.
Union rejects further job cuts
KINGSTON (January 4): Jamaica’s public sector union has rejected claims by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that further job cuts are needed to meet agreed IMF requirements.
President of the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA), O'Neil Grant said job cuts should not be the approach taken to lower the wage bill.
“The Jamaican public sector is less than 10 per cent of the labour force — the average size of the public sector globally ranges between 13 and 15 per cent,” Mr Grant said.
"If we were to cut the public sector by 15,000 jobs come 1 April, what is going to happen? First and foremost, most of the persons that you are going to be removing are going to go on some sort of welfare, because you are now going to be increasing unemployment."
Ghost pensioners costing millions
KAMPALA (January 6): The Ugandan Auditor General is questioning Public Service Ministry payouts worth Shs11 billion ($A4.5 million) to pensioners who may not exist.
Auditor General, John Muwanga said the payments covered the previous 12 months and were in addition to multiple payments to some pensioners who had already received their monthly dues. He wants the Ministry to investigate the matter.
This comes after repeated complaints from genuine pensioners who said they had not been paid at all. At the time Minister for Finance, Matia Kasaija said the delay in payments was the result of a technical hitch.
Later, the Treasury issued another statement saying the problem was the result of confusion over the number of actual pensioners at the various Ministries.
Concern over multiple miscreants
ATHENS (January 7): More than 450 Greek Public Servants are waiting for disciplinary panels to hear charges of offences against them, the Inspectors-Controllers for Public Administration Authority, has announced.
The authority has launched a new effort to push through dozens of disciplinary cases, which have been piling up despite the Government’s efforts to speed up the process a few months ago.
It has ordered each disciplinary panel to list the cases it is scheduled to hear, as well as the verdicts once they have been issued.
The fear is that Public Servants who had been accused of serious offenses may be allowed to return to work, pending their hearings.
‘Bank holiday’ claim denied
DUBLIN (January 7): The union representing lower-paid Irish Public Servants has lost its claim for extra holidays to compensate for the loss of ‘bank time’ to cash their pay cheques.
The Civil Service Arbitration Board (CSAB) has ruled that there is no basis for acceding to the request. The bank time allowance, which granted most Public Servants 30 minutes on a Friday to enable them to lodge their pay cheques at a bank, was abolished in 2011.
The Civil Public and Services Union, which represents 13,000 Public Servants, had been criticised for seeking compensation for its members on the basis that most staff now have their wages paid electronically into their bank accounts.
The existence of the allowance had previously been criticised by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform which branded it an “outdated work practice”.
Taxis on taxes worker suspended
PARIS (January 7): A high-level French Public Servant has been suspended by President François Hollande for misusing public funds, which included running up a €40,000 ($A60,800) taxi bill.
Former President of the French National Audiovisual Institute (INA), Agnès Saal received notice of a six-month discharge from the Public Service followed by a two-year probation period after she and her son racked up the bill during her 10-month tenure as the public institution’s head.
Aggravating the charge against her, Ms Saal had access to a private chauffeur during her tenure at the INA. She acknowledged that up to a third of her taxi trips had been for private reasons, and made a €15,900 ($24,200) reimbursement.
However, she defended her use of the taxis, arguing that her taxpayer-funded chauffeur could not be expected to keep up with a work schedule that included many 15-hour days, as well as weekend commitments. She does not hold a driver’s licence.
Loans crackdown ‘successful’
KUALA LUMPUR (January 5): The Malaysian National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) has reported success with its recent crackdown on Public Servants who were behind with their payments on student loans.
Marketing and Strategic Communications Chief Officer at PTPTN, Mastura Mohd Khalid said loan repayments made by its borrowers among Public Servants had increased by 20 per cent after the recent implementation of a mandatory salary deduction.
“We hope this can be a new starting point for borrowers to repay their loans in a consistent manner,” Ms Mastura said.
“The mandatory salary deduction is only imposed on those who have never made a repayment. They had been given a repayment period of between 10 to 15 years, but they never paid.”
New deal for project managers
LONDON (January 7): A proposal by The Chief Executive of the United Kingdom Public Service to introduce a separate senior pay-scale for commercial project managers within the Public Service, has found favour with the Government.
John Manzoni said a priority for the Government was to build the Public Service’s base of specialist commercial skills. Existing pay arrangements were perceived to be a barrier to this.
Senior Public Service pay typically tops out at around £200,000 ($408,000) but heads of large-scale commercial projects can earn three times as much in the private sector.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said there was a need to build clear career paths, high-quality learning and development products, and reward packages that allowed the Public Service to improve specialist capability.
PS pay crisis rocks Government
HARARE (January 8): Zimbabwe’s Public Service pay crisis is dragging on with regular pay finally delivered in some cases more than two weeks late, and no sign of the promised end-of-2015 bonus.
The situation has many social implications for workers with parents not able to pay January school fees for their children and dependents. Some Public Servants are unable to afford life-preserving drugs, while others are receiving eviction orders for non-payment of rents.
The cash-strapped Government is broke. Part of the money that was supposed to pay Public Servants was ring fenced towards paying off installments on loans to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank.
It is now likely that the Government will not be able to pay January 2016 salaries unless there is some special intervention outside the normal tax collection.
UK ideas culture outstrips US
LONDON (January 7): Analysis by the United Kingdom think tank, Institute for Government (IfG), has found a "strong and improving" culture for the fostering of ideas within the Public Service.
The IfG said the United Kingdom was outshining its American counterpart, increasing levels of respondents feeling they and their colleagues worked in an environment where they were “encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things”.
IfG report authors, Jo Casebourne and Ollie Hirst said that the improving picture of innovation within the Public Service was in contrast with the US, where the innovation picture was seen as having broadly deteriorated since 2010.
They said that while 91 per cent of American Federal employees reported they were constantly looking for ways to do their jobs better, just 57 per cent felt encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing their jobs, while only 37 per cent felt they worked in an environment where creativity and innovation were rewarded.
‘Entitlement culture’ slammed
BASSETERRE (January 5): The Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis has called for improved service delivery within the nation’s Public Service.
Timothy Harris said that while the historic Public Service model was one based on the award of increments, employees should not partake in a culture of entitlement.
“Simply put, top-quality service is required both in the public and the private sectors. By extension, salaries and increments must be tied to productivity and performance with promotions being based on merit,” Dr Harris said.
“In 2016, there will be heightened efforts to advance our public sector reform program, beginning with the completion of job descriptions where none currently exist and the development of matching performance appraisals to accurately determine execution of assigned duties.”
The full Public Service News international news service resumes on January 18 at psnews.com.au/aps/world