Thursday, January 5, 2017

Public Service news from around the world

PS purchasers go back to school

LONDON (January 4): A major shake-up in the way the United Kingdom buys goods and service will result in hundreds of Public Servants responsible for the purchases being assessed and graded for their abilities to secure contracts.

Every official with responsibility for procurement is to go on a training day at an assessment centre. Those scoring an A grade will be rewarded with improved terms and conditions, including better pay, as part of efforts to make salaries more competitive with the private sector.

They will also be transferred to the Government Commercial Organisation, which is being set up as a single body for procurement professionals who will be sent out to Government Departments to lead complex projects.

The decision follows a series of blunders that came to light in 2016 including the highly publicised commission by the Department for International Development of a £286 million ($A482 million) airport on the island of St Helena that is unusable because wind conditions mean aircraft cannot land safely.


Advance of the robots

BELFAST (January 2):International business adviser Deloitte has warned that one in six Public Service jobs in Northern Ireland could be replaced by automation by 2030.

Deloitte’s report said that those in administrative and operative positions were in the most danger of having their roles replaced by new systems, software or apps.

The report stated that across all sectors of the economy, technological advances meant that repetitive and predictable tasks would be increasingly undertaken by robotics, either in the form of software or devices.

However, the report added that the high number of public-facing roles, particularly those in areas such as education and caring, would be relatively safe from automation.


Minister warns on pay restoration

DUBLIN (December 31): A Junior Minister in the Irish Government has said that any immediate attempts to restore Public Service pay to the levels that existed before the Global Financial Crisis would be “dragging the country back to the bad old days”.

The remarks by Minister for the Office of Public Works, Seán Canney are sure to enrage unions who are pushing for the speedy restoration of pay cuts implemented at the height of the financial crisis.

Mr Canney said giving in to calls to speed up the restoration of pre-crash pay rates was not an option and the existing plan to restore salaries over the next four years should be respected.

The comments came days after the Government announced that the Public Pay Commission which is examining the issue, and is due to report by early northern summer, will also be tasked with reviewing public worker pension rates amid concerns they are proving too costly.


Not such a good look

PUDUCHERRY (December 31): A senior Puducherry Public Servant has been suspended for posting obscene videos on an official WhatsApp messaging group that included the Indian State’s Lieutenant Governor, Kiran Bedi.

Registrar of Cooperative Societies, A. S. Sivakumar was sanctioned after the administrator of the group reported the video to Mr Bedi, who ordered that he be detained by police.

This has upset Chief Minister, V. Narayanasamy who called the action high-handed and demanded to know why Mr Sivakumar was being detained if there was no charge against him.

“The law should be followed in all Government procedures and should not be bypassed by anyone, including the Lieutenant Governor,” Mr Narayanasamy said.


Temptations on the fairway  

KUALA LUMPUR (January 1): The head of Malaysia’s Anti-Corruption Commission has urged the country’s top Public servants to stop going overseas to play golf in case they were tempted by “vested interests” on the courses.

Dzulkifli Ahmad said there were plenty of golf courses in Malaysia were the dangers of corruption were less.

“I want to advise Civil Servants to stop such activities and that there is no need to go overseas to play golf, especially in Indonesia and Thailand,” Mr Ahmad said.

“While the individuals may be paying for their own travel expenses, interested parties may be footing other bills, including shopping — stop all these activities immediately before it is too late.”


‘Do nothing’ advice on Troubles

BELFAST (December 30): Former secret files automatically released after 30 years reveal Northern Ireland's top Public Servant suggested doing nothing to tackle loyalist violence to teach unionists that it "does not pay".

Sir Kenneth Bloomfield told Irish officials during a confidential meeting in April 1986 that a "completely logical line of action" amid increasing unrest would be no action at all.

There had been a ferocious Unionist backlash to the Anglo-Irish Agreement at the time with violence escalating.

"One alternative would be to look to a long campaign of violence and attrition — doing nothing and bringing home to the Unionists that this sort of action just does not pay,” Sir Kenneth is quoted as saying.


EU envoy’s Brexit warning

LONDON January 4): The resignation of Britain’s Ambassador to the European Union, Sir Ivan Rogers is being seen as the last straw for Public Servants grappling with the United Kingdom’s exit from the body [Brexit].

In his farewell email, Sir Ivan hinted at the difficulties for Public Servants of not knowing the Government’s Brexit objectives and warned that “serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short supply in Whitehall”.

The FDA, the union that represents senior Public Servants, said that officials were working “more hours for falling real-terms pay” as the forthcoming Brexit negotiations were piled on top of existing priorities.

Senior Public Servants “are undertaking unsustainable workloads for pay that doesn’t remotely compare with the wider marketplace”, the FDA said.


‘No direction’ on negotiations

LONDON (December 31): A survey by the United Kingdom’s Institute for Government says that the country’s senior Public Servants are still without direction on how to prepare for the negotiations on withdrawal from the European Union [Brexit] and life outside the EU.

The new report, Whitehall’s Preparation for the UK’s Exit from the EU says the absence of a clear plan for Brexit and the Government’s desire for secrecy are hindering preparations for the triggering of Article 50 that formally states the country’s intention to leave and the negotiations that will immediately follow. 

“Departments are not working consistently across the board to ensure we have the policies and implementation plans in place to avoid a ‘cliff edge’ at the point of exit,” the report states.

It also argues that, for many Departments, Brexit may create a severe Budget squeeze on top of significant spending cuts already in train.


Utility silent on internet connection

WESTBROOK (December 30): There will be red faces at the headquarters of United States internet provider Time Warner Cable after the City of Westbrook in Maine went public with complaints it had been waiting two months for a new Public Service building to be connected.

The “two-hour” job to finish hooking up an internet service remains undone even though the $US8.9 million ($A12.2 million) project was completed at the end of October. Meanwhile, the city’s Public Servants are continuing to work at the old building next door.

City Director of Public Services and Engineering, Eric Dudley said all that was required was a connection to a utility pole across the street.

Despite his best efforts to contact the internet service provider, Mr Dudley hasn’t heard from the company since the building was completed. “The Time Warner representative I am working with doesn’t answer the phone and although I leave voicemail messages, no one at the company returns them,” he said.


Union alleges job discrimination

KINGSTON (December 30): Jamaica’s top Public Service union official has attacked what he calls the discriminatory treatment of officers in the country’s Fiscal Management Group (FMG) who are often required to reapply for their jobs when there is a reclassification of positions.

President of the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA), O'Neil Grant said nearly 1000 accountants and auditors who comprise the FMG are the ones most affected whenever there is an upgrade or re-titling of positions.

Mr Grant said the JCSA was currently seeking legal advice to determine the legality of the Government requirement.

He said the process applied only to the FMG and was a clear case of discrimination.


High flyers’ pay rise cause storm

GIBRALTAR (December 31): A 28 per cent pay rise for Gibraltar’s top two Public Servants has caused a political storm in the British Overseas Territory.

An MP for the Opposition Gibraltar Social Democratic Party, Roy Clinton said the increases for the Chief Secretary and Principal Auditor stood in stark contrast to a 2.75 per cent increase across the rest of the Public Service.

However, Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo accused Mr Clinton of being “an enemy of the Civil Service”.

He claimed the rise stemmed from the GSD, when in office, bumping up the pay of the Chief Executive, David McCutcheon, despite an agreement that the Chief Secretary would be Gibraltar’s highest paid Public Servant.


Court seeks answers on appointments

PESHAWAR: The Public Service Commission of the Pakistani Province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been barred from appointing 3,000 doctors to Government hospitals across the Province.

The Peshawar High Court took the decision in ruling on a writ petition by some doctors who claimed there was a policy of discrimination against the candidates who had got Doctor of Medicine degrees from abroad.

The Court allowed the Commission to continue the interview process, but restrained it from issuing final results regarding appointment of the doctors until the Court considered the case further.

The Commission was ordered to submit its reply to the ruling before the next hearing which would be held promptly.


Bribes essential for service

KATHMANDU (January 2): The Nepalese Public Service has been beset with complaints from the public, most claiming that timely service can be obtained only by bribing officials.

A report from the National Vigilance Centre painted a bleak picture of the Government’s service delivery mechanism, with many complainants saying that even when they greased the palms of officials, the service was below standard.

As well as being uncooperative, most of the service seekers found the behaviour of Public Servants was rude and irritating.

“People’s displeasure at the behaviour and service delivery of the Government employees suggests that there is something wrong in the existing system of bureaucracy,” the report stated.


 Disagreement on PS pay gap

HARTFORD (January 2): Two American think tanks are at odds over the gap between Public Service and private sector pay rates in the American State of Connecticut.

The conservative Yankee Institute for Public Policy claimed in a report issued late last year that compensation for public-sector workers was up to 46 per cent higher than their private-sector counterparts.

However, the Economic Policy Institute, (EPI) funded by labour unions, has released a report claiming the Yankee Institute cherry-picked its sample of workers and inflated the cost of retiree benefits, skewing results.

“Public sector workers are a punching bag for activists who want to shrink the size of Government and weaken unions. Connecticut lawmakers should ignore false claims that their public employees are overpaid,” the EPI report states.


Government gets tough on ‘slander’

KUALA LUMPUR January 4): The Malaysian Government says it will take action against Public Servants, or those who have left the service for making “slanderous” remarks that could give a bad perception of the Government.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said rules already in place penalised those who revealed official secrets they had gathered from the Public Service.

Retirees were also bound under the Official Secrets Act 1972 that states it is wrong to divulge any information that is related to official secrets.

The full Public Service News international news service resumes on January 24 at

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