Colombo Telegraph

An Authority To Deliver The Baby Of A Commission

By Somapala Gunadheera

Somapala Gunadheera

Whenever a smoke-addict is under tension, he lights a cigarette and whenever the Government becomes clueless, it appoints a Commission or Authority. This analogy came to my mind, as I read the news item, “New body to monitor Public Service” appearing in the Daily Mirror of 31st October”. The news reports that the Government was seeking to introduce fresh legislation to establish a separate Authority to streamline the Public Service through measures, such as formulation of standards, introduction of codes of best practices and procedures. The Authority is to be given wide ranging powers to monitor standards, quality, efficiency, accuracy, and transparency in the discharge of public service by various State institutions.

One wonders what the recently established Public Service Commission would do after the new Authority comes into being, except routine appointments and transfers. The PSC was created only the other day, with much fanfare to replace the old institutions that had run the Public Service for decades. They had streamlined their responsibilities with manuals of procedure, establishment codes, financial regulations and disciplinary rules. The new PSC was established by the Parliament itself through a representative Council. There is no doubt about the capability and the capacity of that appointing authority to prescribe the workload of the new Commission and to incorporate the best available talent in what they created. The proposed Authority impliedly raises doubts whether that function had been discharged adequately. The move is tantamount to an inadvertent admission that the Constituting Council, (CC), has failed to give a proper mandate to its creature and to harness it with the best available talent. If not, why duplicate its workload with a new Authority?

If the CC was mindful of the gravity of its assignment and if they discharged it fully and satisfactorily, it could not have left gaps and cavities in their creation to be filled by third parties. Besides, the purpose of establishing independent commissions was declared at the time they were created, to be to democratize the power that was monopolized by the top executives in the past. Strangely, the new proposal appears to be blatantly reversing that diversion by handing back the withdrawn power to a body consisting of the officials replaced by the CC, supplemented by more private members to be nominated.

The obvious question that arises is what is the need to enlist other private members to the new Authority after the CC has already made selections for the same purpose and when the new PSC had the power to make changes as necessary. Why cannot the duly constituted PSC discharge that function with the assistance of the named heads of departments and relevant expertise that they have the power to enlist?

The former Government may have been exclusively run by a family entourage. But they ran it inclusively with discipline and without proliferation. True ‘there was death for their ambition’ but what has their successor’s innovations achieved? Their performance has certainly not gained any ‘honour for their valour’. It has become a case of multiplying institutions to deal with problems as they arise. A clear example is the structure established to create national reconciliation. Despite its existence, we are shocked day by day, with the deteriorating public peace in the North and the East. If such incidents happen to inflame the rest of the country at the going rate, we would be back again in the battlefield, we have crossed with untold suffering and sacrifice.

What the country needs today is not more mendicants to cook the national gruel. Its most urgent need is for each of the available mendicants to contribute his fistful of rice, without expecting his colleagues to cover his omission.

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