5th November 2000
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New scheme to promote senior public officials

By Shelani de Silva.
A new scheme of promotions for administrative officers will be implemented as part of a series of public administration reforms to be introduced early next year, Minister of Public Administration Richard Pathirana said.

The newly formed Public Administration Reforms unit under the Ministry of Public Administration is to bring about many changes in the State sector.

Minister Pathirana told The Sunday Times that priority will be given to implement Government policies without delay.

'A new promotion scheme will also be implemented. At present an officer has to wait until a vacancy occurs to get a promotion, although he may have the qualifications, but a scheme will be introduced where promotions will be made once the ministry or GA makes the recommendation' he said. 

The Minister added that stern action will be taken against Government Agents who delay implementing Government policies. 

New reforms will come into effect on the recommendations made by the special committee which was appointed by President Kumaratunga. New welfare schemes for officials will also come into effect early next year which will enhance the working environment.

'A transfer scheme will be introduced so that officials will hold a post only for five years. This does not happen right now. There are officers who stay at a post for more than ten years' Minister Pathirana said. 

Is any MP capable of running any Govt. Department?

This is a part of the paper Sam Wijesinha, former Secretary General of Parliament presented on 'Developments in Parliamentary Representation' at the Workshop organized by the Council for Liberal Democracy last week.

In reflecting on the constitutional changes that have taken place over the last 200 years, we should note that much of our constitutional tradition derives from Great Britain. Yet Great Britain, which produced more than 500 constitutions for its colonial territories, has never had a written Constitution of its own. Perhaps this is one reason why most of the constitutions produced under British influence lasted only a few years. 

As with most countries following variations of the parliamentary democratic system, Sri Lanka needs to adapt itself to the new demands in the changing nature of modern government. It needs to preserve for the executive the power to formulate and enforce policy in accordance with shifting national needs, but it also needs to ensure ready access to the expertise necessary to do all this effectively.

Given how candidates are selected for and at elections now, there are clearly going to be deficiencies amongst potential decision makers with regard to the knowledge and understanding required to make decisions, let alone take on ministerial responsibility.

That members of Parliament recognize their limitations is clear from the way they now employ their time and energies. Of course these also now have to be devoted to increasing their popularity (in relation not only to political opponents, but also members of their own party) in much larger constituencies than we had originally.

What has happened then is that Parliament simply ratifies the decisions of the supreme policy making body, the Cabinet, rather than acting as an Assembly where Government and Opposition seek compromise.

Parliament, supposed to be the supreme Legislative Body, is controlled by the Executive which is the source of legislation. On the other hand, the composition of the Executive itself suffers, in that choice is restricted to members of Parliament, who have generally been selected for quite different reasons than their suitability to run increasingly complex government departments. This is one reason for the proliferation of ministries. Given the political need to minimize grievances, senior members, or representatives of particular castes or creeds or areas have to be accommodated. 

When they are not especially competent, what are clearly non-functional ministries are created, at vast expense to the public, given the infrastructural requirements, the personnel needs, and the perks and privileges attaching to Cabinet rank.

What Paul Johnson in Modern Times called the 'great human scourge of the 20th century - the professional politician' has then in Sri Lanka a dual role to play. He has to continue to get elected, to maintain his professional role of politician as well as to keep his party in government. This means, since decentralized decision making is still far away, that he has to concern himself with the fine details of nursing an electorate, redressing grievances, finding employment, helping with infrastructural development and building up a support network. 

But he may also be called upon to fulfil an active role in government, for which he has little training or expertise. A few individuals may grow into the role.

But given that so much depends on those who are given executive office, especially as the administrative service has been so politicized that it necessarily follows obediently rather than advising and guiding, it is ironic that we should still stick steadfastly to the British model, according to which anyone elected to Parliament is thought capable of running any government department.

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