Open letter to the Chief Secretary to the government

Posted on June 29, 2012

11


Penned by Jayanath Appudurai

___________________________

Dear Chief Secretary,

The ‘Sunday Interview” published in the NST of 24 June 2012 refers.

To the question:  “It is said that some civil servants are being influenced by promises made by the opposition. What do you have to say about this?”

You answered:  “They should know better. Don’t be taken in by empty promises. As civil servants we must be loyal to the King and serve the government of the day.”

If you had just stated, “As civil servants we must be loyal to the King and serve the government of the day”, no one would have had cause to pick a bone. This would have clearly underscored the cardinal principle of political neutrality on which the Public Service is founded in our system of parliamentary democracy. This is Public Administration 101 that you read as a Cadet PTD Officer at INTAN in 1981.

I am sure by now you are aware of the grave mistake you have committed in boldly pronouncing the first two sentences! A Freudian Slip perhaps, but nonetheless, a damaging one given your exalted position as the Number 1 Public Servant!

Be that as it may, I am confident as a career public servant you will reflect on this in a rational manner and reassure the People that the Public Service under your able stewardship will act in an impartial and professional manner, henceforth.

I believe at some point, in the course of the next 12 months the political neutrality of all public servants, in discharging their onerous duties, will surely be tested. Given the imminent GE13 you will need to prepare public servants to face the probability of change of Federal and/or State government(s).

You need to do two things starting now.

One, as the Chairperson of the Secretaries- General and Heads of Services Meeting, you need to reaffirm and remind that the principle of political neutrality must be upheld at all times, without fear or favour. In turn, all Service Heads including the Army and Police Chiefs, and all State Secretaries must be instructed to convey this important message to their respective personnel.

Two, you need to plan for the smooth transition of power post GE13. In this regard you will be best advised to study how the Civil Service of the United Kingdom prepared itself for all possible scenarios post Election 2010 in the UK. For further information on how admirably the UK Civil Service prepared and subsequently conducted itself in managing the formation of a Coalition Government in the UK please see link below:-

http://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/publications/transitions-lessons-learned

I sincerely hope you will take the necessary steps to put in place a comprehensive set of rules and procedures that would reassure the People that the integrity of our democratic polity would not be compromised!

Lastly, I suggest that all transfer of power plans and guidelines be made public prior to GE13 so the People do not have to speculate on outcomes.

The ball is at your feet. I am confident you will deliver to the highest professional standards that all Public Servants must adhere to as prescribed under the Public Service Code of Conduct, and as enshrined in our Federal Constitution.

The People expect no less!