Thursday, December 28, 2017

Public Service News from around the world

UK officers act out their passions

LONDON (December 24): United Kingdom Public Servants are being sent for acting lessons costing up to £650 ($A1,125) a day at the country’s leading drama school.

Whitehall Departments have engaged the services of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to help Public Servants perfect their presenting skills.

Officials are given voice exercises and taught how to relax their lips and mouth, such as by making “horse noises” and blowing kisses. Those who suffer from stage fright are given useful hints on how to combat butterflies by tensing and relaxing muscles in their abdomen and buttocks.

The day-long courses teach individuals how to become a “more powerful and confident presenter at work” and “how to make a strong entrance and opening” that will “leave your audience with your message resonating in their minds”.


Retirement age rise to go ahead

ATHENS (December 18): Phased increases in the retirement age for Greece's Public Servants, introduced in 2015 after being made a condition by international lenders, are constitutional, the country’s highest court has ruled.

The Council of State ruled against an appeal lodged by the country's biggest umbrella union for civil sector workers, ADEDY, challenging the legality of the measure.

Judges ruled that changes to retirement ages were in line with the Greek Constitution when they were intended to help ensure the survival of the social security system, as was the case with the 2015 reforms.

“The gradual increase of retirement ages is aimed first and foremost at rationalising the pension system by preventing early retirements before the legal pensionable age,” the judges stated.


Ultra-Orthodox get PS quotas

JERUSALEM (December 21):  The Israeli Government has announced it will reserve seven per cent of Public Service places for ultra-Orthodox Jews (Haredim).

The quota will be phased in over three years to create more employment opportunities for the growing number of Haredim with academic degrees who are entering the workforce.
Haredim in the prime working ages of 20 to 64 account for about nine per cent of the population in that age cohort, but only seven per cent of the labour force because of their low workforce participation rate.

Only around 11,000 Haredim, 3.5 per cent of total enrolment, are studying in degree programs. Many spend their entire lives in religious studies.

Presidential appointments ‘damaging’

DACCA (18 December): A major anti-corruption body has called upon the Bangladeshi Government to revise provisions in the Civil Service Act which it says are “damaging to the environment” of public sector workers.

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) singled out the right given to the President to appoint 10 per cent of employees in the highest four levels in the Public Service.

“If the scope of satisfactory promotion is not enforced without specific criteria, then the democracy, efficiency and experience of the public administration will be depreciated and professional development will be hampered,” TIB said in a statement.

It also criticised the provision giving the right to dismiss employees without any reason after they had completed 25 years of service.


‘Nonsensical’ decisions a PS norm

BELFAST (December 22): A Northern Ireland Government economist has admitted to a public inquiry that Public Servants regularly make decisions which would seem nonsensical to the man in the street.

Shane Murphy told the probe into the failed Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme that Public Servants believed there was a much bigger picture and even though the rules might seem absurd to them, they trusted there was a grand plan which they could not see.

He made the comments as he was pressed to explain why the decision had been made to set up an RHI scheme in preference to a much cheaper grant-based alternative.


Tens of thousands to lose jobs

NAIROBI (December 18): President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced that thousands of Public Servants will lose their jobs in a massive retrenchment beginning in February.

Nearly 39,000 employees will be retrenched, according to a staff audit report originally published two years ago.

Kenya has about 700,000 employees in the public sector, including 199,921 Public Servants in the National and County Governments.

Firing was deferred until after the recent General Election to avoid a voters' backlash against Mr Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party, but now the Government has decided to bite the bullet and cut the soaring public sector wage bill.


Phoenix pay backlog drags on

OTTAWA (December 18): Latest figures show the trouble plagued Phoenix pay system is not coping well with the changing demands of the Canadian Public Service with a backlog of 54,000 cases relating to revised collective agreements still to be processed.

The report also reveals that about half of the Government’s 300,000 employees are experiencing a pay issue of one kind or another.

Minister for Public Services and Procurement, Carla Qualtrough put the blame on the implementation of 20 of the 27 core Federal Public Service collective agreements since September, with the consequent needs for pay adjustments.

Noting that the backlog would start to decline in the New Year, Ms Qualtrough said it was “historic” that the Government had been able to negotiate 20 collective agreements in less than two years out of the 27 that had expired.


Youth rebels on TV licences

BERNE (December 21): The editor of Switzerland’s German-language public service television network has been asked to explain why the country’s young people should be forced to pay licence fees for “television and radio that serves an old and aging public”.

Tristan Brenn faced a grilling from an audience of communication students with the principal question being the 450 Swiss Franc ($A588) mandatory licensing fee per household per year.

It will be Mr Brenn’s job for the next three months to persuade not just students but all of the Swiss electorate of the value of public service broadcasting.

On March 4, voters will be asked to weigh in on a referendum to abolish the annual license fee that covers about three-quarters of the public broadcaster’s budget — a move supporters of the operation say would put it out of business.


President to probe PS loans

HARARE (December 21): Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised to look into deductions from Public Servants’ salaries by loan sharks.

This was in response to the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) that had sought his intervention on the deductions.

More than 30,000 Public Servants have reportedly had money deducted from their salaries by loan sharks to service loans they say they never took out.

Some of the affected workers claim they have been left with just a few cents in their pay packets after the loans were deducted.


Training grants scheme rorted

SINGAPORE (December 21): Five alleged members of a Singapore criminal syndicate have been charged with scamming a Government training grants scheme.

It was claimed in court that that the group had defrauded SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), of $S40 million ($A38.5 million) through making bogus claims.

The court was told that the group submitted forged documents to obtain subsidies and that the suspects reportedly belonged to “an organised network that utilised nine business entities, comprising employer companies and training providers, to submit the fraudulent claims”.

Commenting on the case, a former presidential candidate, Tan Kin Lian, said it showed “the deplorable state of our Civil Service and the political leadership”.


All is not equal in Brexit body

LONDON (December 20): The United Kingdom Department for Exiting the European Union has the second widest gender pay gap in the Public Service at 15.26 per cent, new figures show. Only the Department of Transport is higher, with women earning 16.9 per cent on average less than male colleagues.

The figures show that women are paid less than men across the Public Service, with a gap of 10 per cent in seven other Departments.

The lowest disparity is three per cent in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

The head of the Public Service, Sir Jeremy Heyward said the data was a "matter for concern".


 Terrorist victim tops PS test

SRINAGAR (December 19): A man whose home was burned by terrorists 18 years ago, forcing his family to flee their village, wants to return there as a Public Servant.

Anjum Bashir Khan (27) has topped the Public Service examination for the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. He says education is the best way to change the destiny of youth and he will work for it in his ancestral area of Surankote.

"There is no point of making it to this service if I'm not able to go there and help people. Becoming an officer is one thing, but what's important is that you should help your society. The society from where you have come," Mr Khan said.
More than 12,000 candidates appeared for the State Public Service examination and only 51 passed.


Workers must prove they are genuine

YAOUNDE (December 19): A total of 2,817 Cameroon Public Servants whose pay has been stopped have until January 18 to come forward and prove they are genuine, the Minister for Public Service says.

Michel Ange Angouing said so far 14,134 Public Servants were presumed to be fictitious. People on the current list had been sent numerous formal notices.

“If they do not respond they will be purely and simply deregistered from the list of Civil Servants, in accordance with the legislation in force," Mr Angouing said.

He said the Government was determined to “mitigate the phenomena of fictitious Civil Servants or of Civil Servants who had left their posts, but were still receiving pay and entitlements.


Need for ‘better face’ in pay deal

KINGSTON (December 21): Jamaica’s Leader of the Opposition is urging the Government to think again over its hard-line attitude to Public Service pay negotiations.

Peter Phillips said there was a need for the Government to show a “different and a better face to the workers of Jamaica”.

His comments follow those of the Shadow Minister for the Public Service, Lambert Brown, who described the Government's offer of six per cent as a “gimmick”, saying that Minister for Finance, Audley Shaw was “taking the workers for fools”.

Dr Phillips, who was Minister for Finance in the last Government, said he was fully aware of the need to keep the wage bill under control, but at the same time recommended that the Government should be seeking to improve whatever benefits it could for the workers.


Auditor General lays down the law

ACCRA (December 23): Ghana’s Auditor General has warned Departments he will not tolerate attempts by senior Public Servants to impede his work.

Daniel Domelevo insists officials cannot determine when they want to release information or dictate to him when they are ready to be audited.

Quoting the 1992 Constitution and the Audit Service Act, Mr Domelevo said he had the mandate to audit public institutions when he saw fit, adding, it was “criminal” for any official to deny his office any document.

"Some misbehaviours continue for a very long time and people think it is normal and it becomes law...people have done it with impunity over the past and gotten away with it. I will cite any official who flouts the Audit Act,” Mr Domelevo said.

The full Public Service News international news service resumes on January 23 at

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Public Service News from around the world

Diplomat in stormy sign-off

WASHINGTON (December 10): A senior diplomat in the United States Department of State has sent a scathing resignation letter to her boss, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, accusing him and President Donald Trump of undercutting the Department and damaging America’s influence in the world.

Elizabeth Shackelford, who most recently served as a political officer based in Nairobi for the US mission to Somalia, wrote that she reluctantly had decided to quit because the Administration had abandoned human rights as a priority and shown disdain for the State Department’s diplomatic work.

“I have deep respect for the career Foreign and Civil Service staff who, despite the stinging disrespect this Administration has shown our profession, continue the struggle to keep our foreign policy on the positive trajectory necessary to avert global disaster in increasingly dangerous times,” Ms Shackelford wrote.

“With each passing day, however, this task grows more futile, driving the Department’s experienced and talented staff away in ever greater numbers.”

Her former colleagues said her departure — and the sentiments expressed in her letter — reflect a wider exodus of mid-career diplomats who have lost confidence in Mr Tillerson’s management and the Trump Administration’s approach toward diplomacy.


Government rejects PS claims

PRETORIA (December 13): The South African Government and its Public Service are heading for a showdown after State negotiators rejected almost all wage and conditions of employment demands tabled by public sector labour unions.

Government negotiators told unions that it could afford to adjust salaries only in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for employees on Levels One to 10 and CPI minus one per cent for Levels 11 and 12. The CPI is currently at 4.8 per cent.

The unions have demanded an increase of 10 per cent for the highest-paid workers and 12 per cent for the rest. They also want the lowest paid Levels One to Three phased out as they consider people on these levels are on "slave wages".

Independent Labour Caucus spokesperson Basil Manuel said while there would be another meeting in January to discuss the Government’s offer in detail, the initial proposal “failed to set the right tone for negotiations”.


Online job ads false – commission

ABUJA (December 11): The Nigerian Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) has once again been forced to deny an online announcement that it is recruiting for hundreds of positions in the Public Service. It said the announcement was not true and should be disregarded.

Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations Joel Oruche said the commission advertised vacancies only in the newspapers and on its website.

“We wish to advise members of the public to always visit our authentic website for advertisements and any other necessary information from the commission,’ Dr Oruche said.

It is not the first time the false advertisement scam has been tried; people who reply to it are usually requested to hand over a sum of money as a ‘deposit’ for their application, which they never see again.


PS chief urged to grant pay rise

BELFAST (10 December) A union representing teachers in  Northern Ireland has called on the head of the Province’s Public Service, David Sterling, to use his powers to give teachers a pay award.

The NASUWT union has written to Mr Sterling calling on him to allocate finances to the Department of Education to enable it to make a significant above-inflation pay award for teachers for 2017-18.

The Northern Ireland Public Service has been the de facto Government of the Province since a power-sharing agreement between the two major parties forming the Executive collapsed in February.

“When the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury both state that all powers over pay now lie with the Northern Ireland Civil Service, they have a duty to use those powers to address the very real concerns that teachers have over pay,” the union stated.


‘Substantial’ rise in exam hopefuls

BEIJING (December 11): More than 1.1 million candidates have sat for China’s annual National Public Service Examination — a substantial increase on last year’s figure of 984,000.

Some 28,000 positions are expected to be filled, meaning only one out of every 39 candidates is expected to get a government job.

This year's exam saw an increase of 76,000 applicants for grassroots positions in difficult and remote areas, perhaps the result of the lower application thresholds for such posts.

Results will be announced in January, 2018.


Gender pay gap still a problem

WELLINGTON (December 8): A report on the New Zealand Public Service shows it is better paid and more educated. However, more work needs to be done on the gender pay gap.

In the final year of the previous National Government the Public Service expanded at a rate of more than 100 new employees a month, despite a promise to cap the number of Public Servants at 36,475.

That target was breached in 2013 and in the last year, the State Services Commission stopped reporting on the overall cap data. 

The commission’s report showed the Public Service employed 48,900 people as at 30 June.


Government appeals gay rights ruling  

HONG KONG (December 12): The Hong Kong Government has launched an appeal against a court’s decision to grant spousal benefits to the husband of a gay Hong Kong Public Servant.

Immigration Officer Angus Leung married his husband, Scott Adams in New Zealand in 2014 and applied to the Civil Service Bureau for a change in his marital status to obtain welfare, such as medical benefits, for Mr Adams.

The bureau did not allow the change, stating that Hong Kong did not recognise same-sex marriages. Mr Leung filed for a judicial review before Court of First Instance which ruled in his favour.

The Government argues that as it does not recognise same sex marriage and as Public Service benefits are based on whether a marriage is recognised, Mr Leung’s husband cannot obtain such benefits.


Arbitration pay award accepted

HALIFAX (December 8): The Government of the Canadian Province of Nova Scotia says it will accept an independent arbitrator’s decision to award a seven per cent pay rise to its Public Servants, despite arguing for a much lower figure.

Premier Stephen McNeil said the award, which will be spread over six years “is within the Province’s means”.

The Government has made control of public sector salaries and benefits one of its major political positions in recent years and wanted to limit increases to three per cent over four years.

President of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union Jason MacLean stopped short of calling it a victory, but said he was satisfied with the ruling.


Minister announces general pay award

KAMPALA (12 December): The Ugandan Minister for Public Service, Muruli Mukasa, says all Government workers will get a pay rise in the next financial year.

He said the first phase would include teachers, health workers and low ranking officers in the armed forces.

“The Government will announce how much each of the Public Servants will be earning before the end of the year,” Mr Mukasa said.

The proposed salary increments come at a time when different public sector workers, including doctors, prosecutors and judicial officers, have gone on strike in the last few months to demand better pay.


Hospital Chair quits in finding row

LONDON (December 11): A former head of the United Kingdom Public Service, Lord Kerslake, has resigned his post as Chair of Kings College Hospital Trust, citing funding problems with the National Health Service (NHS).

In his resignation announcement he said that while he loved the hospital, the Government had been unrealistic about the scale of the challenge facing the NHS and the Trust.

“King’s, like many other hospitals, is fighting against the inexorable pressures of rising demand, increasing costs of drugs and other medical supplies, and the tightest spending figures in recent times,” Lord Kersalke said.

“Fundamentally, our problems lie in the way that the NHS is funded and organised. We desperately need a fundamental rethink. Until then we are simply ‘kicking the can down the road’.”


Annual bonus ‘paid next year’

HARARE (December 9): Reinstated Zimbabwean Minister for Finance Patrick Chinamasa has promised the country’s Public Servants they will be paid their 2017 bonus beginning next year, saying he had set aside $US176 million ($A229 million) for what is popularly known as the ‘13th cheque’.

It is something of a turnaround for Mr Chinamasa who tried on two occasions to have the bonus suspended, only to be overruled by former President Robert Mugabe.

His assurance brought relief to anxious Public Servants who had not received any communication from the new Government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa over whether the bonus would be continued.

The good news was tempered by Mr Chinamasa’s announcement that all Public Servants over 65 must take immediate retirement together with an indefinite freeze on recruitment.


Stern warning to PS partygoers

BELFAST (December 8): While it might be the festive season, workers in the Northern Ireland Public Service have been warned not to overdo the celebrations, and to behave themselves at office parties.

A leaked internal memo sets out guidelines that should be observed when it comes to general behaviour, social media and the consumption of alcohol.

"We would like to take this opportunity to remind you of the need to maintain high standards of behaviour and conduct at Christmas parties and seasonal social events, whether they are held on official premises or outside the workplace," the memo states.

"You should be aware that inappropriate behaviour occurring at social events such as Christmas parties, or gatherings after work, can constitute unlawful discrimination, harassment or bullying in the same way as if it had occurred in the workplace."


Pay offer a ‘three-card trick’ 

KINGSTON (December 13): A Jamaican Opposition politician has accused the Government of “playing games” in the latest round of pay negotiations with the Public Service, saying its so-called new offer was a “three-card trick”.

Shadow Minister for the Public Service Lambert Brown said the Government's latest offer of four per cent in year one and two per cent in year two in no way changed the fundamental offer of three per cent in year one and three per cent in year two and would not result in any material difference to the take home pay packages of public sector workers.

Speaking after the breakdown of negotiations between the police and teachers and the Government, Mr Brown said Minister of Finance and the Public Service Audley Shaw was “taking the workers for fools with a preposterous proposal, which only provokes a new attitude of entrenched opposition to any settlement offer on the present terms”.


Concern at role of Ministerial advisers

WELLINGTON (December 12): Government Ministers need to be well-informed to make good decisions for New Zealand — and urgent action is needed to ensure they get the best advice, the Public Service Association (PSA) says.

Research commissioned by the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand (IPANZ) highlights increasing concerns about the role of Ministerial advisers.

The work, by Chris Eichbaum and Richard Shaw, shows growing concern that Ministerial advisers intervene in the relationship between senior Public Servants and Ministers — and that Ministers have been reluctant to accept free and frank advice.

National Secretary of the Public Service Association Glenn Barclay said the report indicated some Ministerial advisers had been acting as gatekeepers, and Public Servants were self-censoring as a result.


Permanency for long-serving contractors

MANILIA (10 December): A Bill granting permanency to Public Service contractors with 12 years of service has been introduced into the Philippines House of Representatives.

Introducing the legislation, lawmaker Joel Mayo Almario said the measure sought to recognise the valuable input of the temporary workforce in the Government.

 “It is hoped the passage of this measure will promote efficient Government service and dedication by providing Public Servants with the opportunity of acquiring security of tenure and other benefits,” Mr Almario said.

“It shall have both retroactive and prospective application, allowing all those who have reached 12 continuous years of service prior to and after the passage of this Bill to apply for this privilege.”

The full Public Service News international news service resumes on January 23 at