Lupari right about public service

Editorial

PUBLIC servants, as government workers are known in Papua New Guinea, are among the
better paid workers in this country.
Their employer, the National Government, rarely fails to pay them on time every fortnight whether they actually do any work or not.
The public service is a contented workforce and most, if not all, public servants will gladly attest that it is a real privilege to be employed by the Government.
Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari says public servants should be the “last people” in this country to complain about their pay when the lowest paid public servant earns K600 per fortnight.
The average pay for public servants has increased by 55 per cent to 75 per cent since 2010.
For example, the entry salary for a base-grade police constable has increased from K600 to K1050 per fortnight while the entry salary for a base-grade teacher has risen from K390 to K900 per fortnight and the entry salary for a base-grade nurse has increased from K450 to K820 per fortnight.
Public servants consume almost K4.0 billion of the total budget on an annual basis just on wages and salaries, which accounts for 30 per cent of the national budget.
As Lupari told heads of department and government agencies last Friday: “Our people are paying us to do a job to serve them.
“Yet, many times we complain about being paid less. We complain about allowances. We complain about school fees.
“We complain literally about everything.”
Lupari makes no bones about the public perception of the bureaucracy that he inherited early this year.
Public servants are generally despised by the wider community that sees a “dysfunctional and ineffective” bureaucracy as a major stumbling block to development and growth.
We commend the chief secretary for his initiative to gather his departmental heads twice a month to discuss pertinent issues affecting their sectors of responsibility.
Lupari is a man on a mission, assigned by the political leadership to overhaul the public service to be a more efficient and effective machinery to deliver the Government’s policy initiatives and programmes to the majority of our people.
He is adamant that public servants must take ownership of their responsibilities and ensure that they serve the people diligently and without fear or favour.
Similar sentiments were echoed recently by Vice Minister for Finance Benjamin Phillip when he lashed out at the bureaucracy, saying the financing of the public service from the national and provincial recurrent budget was overly expensive. In calling for the public service to be overhauled to be cost-effective, Phillip said:
“Most public servants are being paid for doing nothing or doing minimal work, yet the system we have in place continues to pay them for their inefficiencies and ineffectiveness in executing government directives for services to trickle down to the people.”
We couldn’t agree more with
both the chief secretary and vice minister that the current public service machinery is inefficient and costly.
It needs to be overhauled immediately to bring back productivity that would reflect in the services provided to our people.
In fact, the public service machinery has not undergone any drastic structural and operational changes since PNG inherited the system from its colonial master, Australia, more than 41 years ago.
What has changed during this period has been the mindset and work output of our public servants.
While there are many public servants who work tirelessly to serve the Government of the day, there are many more who are lazy, inefficient and are a burden to the country, especially the public purse.
These are the type of public servants who are making a mockery of the system by being regularly absent from work but they still front up at the numerous automated telling machines on paydays to swipe their bank cards and get free money from the government for doing little or nothing.
Drastic changes to the public service must ensure that government workers are paid according to the time they spend at work, just like private sector employees.
As Lupari aptly says to all public servants: “It is not fair to our people.
“We have to be honest with ourselves.”

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