One dollar wages threat to PS
WASHINGTON (January 5): American Public Servants are feeling just a little more threatened this week after Congressional Republicans gave themselves the power to slash the annual salary of any individual Federal worker to as low as $US1, and the budget of any individual Federal program right down to zero.
Republicans revived an obscure provision enacted by Congress in 1876 that empowers any Member of Congress to submit an amendment to an Appropriations Bill that targets the funding of a specific Government program or employee.
The rule was devised before the advent of a non-political, career Public Service and has been rarely invoked. The fear is the revived law could be used to cut programs supporting things like the Clean Air Act, which some Republicans may not approve.
The rule appears most disconcerting when viewed in the context of the incoming Administration’s apparent hostility toward the independence of the Public Service.
PS head sacked — again
BANJUL (January 5): Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has sacked the head of the country’s Public Service — for the second time in six months.
Sulayman Samba was initially dismissed in June last year, seven months after his initial appointment then reappointed two months later. No treasons were given for either sacking.
Mr Samba has held many senior positions under President Jammeh including Deputy Secretary-General and Permanent Secretary for various Government Ministries.
President Jammeh’s mandate is due to end on January 28 after he surprisingly lost the election to Opposition candidate, Adama Barrow. Despite initially conceding defeat, Mr Jammeh is now refusing to hand over power and has vowed to fight off any foreign military intervention.
Ill wind blowing in public sector
OTTAWA (January 10): Canadian Public Servants took a record number of sick days in 2016 according to annual job market statistics released by Statistics Canada.
The average public sector worker missed 13.5 days of work last year compared with 8.3 days for workers in the private sector.
The gap between public and private sector absenteeism has been widening for years but last year that disparity hit an all-time high, as Government workers took 5.2 more sick days than those in the private sector.
According to a separate study as much as 80 per cent of the sick-leave gap is the result of the make-up of the Government workforce. Workers in the public sector are generally older, there are more females than males, and most are unionised — all three of those groups tend to take more time off.
Senior professors shown the door
KUALA LUMPUR (January 8): Malaysian public universities have been stripped of their senior staff with 156 out of 506 professors, aged between 61 and 70, not having their contracts renewed last year due to budget cuts.
Chief Executive of the National Council of Professors, Datuk Raduan Che Rose said the trend might affect Malaysian universities’ ability to compete internationally.
While the official retirement age for professors is 60, those past that age have usually continued to work under contract, subject to the ability of their respective institutions to pay for them. It is this group that has been most affected by funding cuts.
“In order to compete internationally, the country should find ways to retain our professors to at least up to 65 years old and also attract good foreign professors into our system,” Dr Raduan said.
Former EU envoy to retire
LONDON (January 8): Four days after his shock resignation as the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to the European Union, Sir Ivan Rogers has quit the Public Service with immediate effect.
A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said: "Sir Ivan Rogers did not seek any further Civil Service appointment and has therefore resigned from the Civil Service with immediate effect.”
It is understood Sir Ivan will receive three months’ pay in lieu of notice, in line with standard Foreign Office terms, but no special pay-off was offered or sought.
In a fiery message to staff announcing his resignation from the Brussels post, Sir Ivan had hit out at the "ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking" of politicians and said Public Servants still did not know the Government's plans for exiting the European Union.
Workers quit posts to fight poll
NAIROBI (January 8): Kenya’s Public Service could be facing a personnel crisis as hundreds of workers, including Cabinet Secretaries, heads of Government Agencies and national and county employees hand in their resignations to contest this year’s General Election.
Some county [Local Government] executives have already tendered their resignations even before the February 8 deadline.
The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2016 requires Public Servants who want to contest the election to leave office six months beforehand.
Chair of the Public Service Commission, Margaret Kobia said resignations would be accepted by the Government and those leaving would hand over to the senior-most officers in their Departments “so there will be no vacuum”.
More work needed on PS reform
WASHINGTON (January 5): The United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) says it has made significant strides towards a more modern Government personnel system, but has urged future Administrations to allow it to continue with the work.
Acting Director of the OPM, Beth Cobert said there was a need for more comprehensive reforms that addressed structural challenges to improved Government-wide performance.
She suggested Congress bring together lawmakers, representatives from the President’s National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations, members from industry and academic experts to develop new recommendations to modernise personnel policies.
She also suggested Congress consider targeted legislation to help Agencies more quickly bring in students, recent graduates and young talent with mission-critical skills.
Call to whip PS into shape
KUALA LUMPUR (January 11): An organisation representing former Malaysian Public Servants has urged heavier punishment, including whipping, be imposed on officials found abusing power and involved in corruption.
The Alumni Association of the Administrative and Diplomatic Officers said corruption involving large sums of money among Public Service officials was disturbing and damaging to the reputation of the service and the country.
It said public officials should not abuse the positions and power they had been entrusted with to betray and commit criminal breach of trust.
"It should be noted that there are countries that impose the death penalty on Public Servants found guilty of corruption, especially those in senior positions," it said.
Chief gets free hand to fight corruption
LILONGWE (January 7): Malawi President Arthur Mutharika has sworn in a new head of the country’s Public Service, challenging him to “root out corruption wherever he finds it”.
Naming Lloyd Muhara as the Chief Secretary to the Government, President Mutharika said he had a lot of confidence in Mr Muhara and Malawians had high expectations of him.
“I want you to root out corruption from the Civil Service. Your office is mandated to discipline, to suspend and to fire people, President Mutharika said.
“I want wrong-doers to be fired and prosecuted. We are better off parting with people who bring performance down than keeping them in the system. The time for playing games is over.”
Government workers on the rise
OTTAWA (January 9): The number of Canadian Federal Public Servants employed in and around the national capital of Ottawa is now at its highest since 2010, when the previous Conservative Government began cutting jobs.
Statistics Canada said the total number of Federal employees working in the National Capital Region in 2016 jumped by 14,000 to 145,000, representing a 10.5 per cent increase over the previous year.
Experts said the growth was directly tied to the Liberal Government carrying out election promises to create new programs for Canadians.
Describing the current Government as “hyperactive”, President of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees, Emmanuelle Tremblay said that after deep cuts into services there had been a realisation that Departments “cannot function below the bare bones".
Restive workers want promotion
ABUJA (January 10): There is mounting concern in the Nigerian Federal Public Service over a failure to promote qualified employees, some of whom have been stuck in their current posts for more than a decade.
Now the workers say they are tired of waiting for head of the Public Service, Winifred Oyo-Ita to take action on their behalf and may take their case directly to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Most of the affected Public Servants are due for promotion from Assistant to Deputy Directors and from Deputy to Directors. Many of them do not have many more years to spend in the Public Service either on account of age or years of service.
It is believed the stagnation stems from the suspension of the tenured policy by the Government whereby all Directors who had served up to eight years on one post had to give way to new candidates.
PS troubleshooters to be expanded
LONDON (January 5): A team of young United Kingdom Public Servants is set to double in size in 2017, after Whitehall's operational delivery chief, Ruth Owen said Departmental leaders had been won over by the new model.
The Surge and Rapid Response Team was set up in 2014 after the Passport Office and HM Revenue and Customs, which have both reduced frontline staff numbers in recent years, drew flak for customer service failures.
Problems at the two Agencies prompted Ministers to order the creation of a flexible team of Public Servants able to quickly support frontline or back office staff anywhere in Government, either in response to an immediate crisis or to help with anticipated surges in demand.
The team began with around 200 newly-recruited apprentices, whose contracts require them to be available at 24 hours' notice. So far the team has worked to support organisations including the Foreign Office, UK Visas and Immigration and the Rural Payments Agency.
Union opposes pension reforms
KINGSTON (January 6): The main union representing Jamaican Public Service workers says it is unhappy with a proposed reform of workers’ pensions.
President of the Jamaica Civil Service Association, O'Neil Grant said the Pensions (Public Service) Bill, which the Government hopes to pass into law by April, would have the effect of reducing the value of the pension.
"It is going to go down from an accrual rate of 66.66 per cent to about 60 per cent in terms of the last salary," Mr Grant said.
The Government wants to pass the Bill as part of a $US1.7 billion ($A2.2 billion) standby arrangement with the International Monetary Fund.
Workers told to be wary of gifts
JERUSALEM (January 10): Senior Israeli Public Servants have been reminded of the rules forbidding public officials from accepting gifts and other benefits, the Civil Service Commission saying it could be considered a criminal offense.
The warning follows investigations being conducted against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on suspicions that he accepted such gifts and other benefits from private businesspeople.
The person in charge of disciplinary matters at the Commission, Assaf Rosenberg said he decided to clarify the rules after receiving requests to do so from a number of people in recent days.
"Public officials are forbidden to accept gifts, except according to the conditions set in law and the Civil Service regulations," Mr Rosenberg said.
Poor quality PS ‘threatens reforms’
ACCRA (January 11): The head of a leading Ghanaian think tank says the poor quality of the country’s Public Service could thwart the plans of the new Government to introduce reforms.
Executive Director of the Institute of Democratic Governance, Emmanuel Akwetey said President Nana Akufo-Addo would need to decide if he would just take the machinery that existed within the public sector or change it.
“The Civil Service is broken in many ways and if we want to fix it, we have to look seriously, first of all, at the political relationship and bureaucratic relations… the relationship between politicians and the bureaucrats, Dr Akwetey said.
“The human factor and the political situation within the Public Service could be a very significant constraint to its achievement and I think we might have to look at that carefully.”
The full Public Service News international news service resumes on January 24 at psnews.com.au/aps/world