Friday, November 28, 2008

Is the Civil Service on Right Course?

Article 54 (Haa) of the Civil Service Act says a Permanent Secretary's post must be created and filled in each responsible office of the government. To anyone except the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the wording of this article and its context leaves little doubt as to its meaning: each ministry must have one and only one permanent secretary. But today some ministries have more than one permanent secretary. What gives?

Having two permanent secretaries in a ministry is more than a mere cosmetic issue. It dilutes the responsibilities of a permanent secretary (PS) described in Article 55 of the Act, and weakens the line of authority from minister to PS and onwards to civil service staff.

Perhaps the most serious accusation leveled against the erstwhile Public Service Division (PSD) of the President's Office was its tendency to create posts for people. CSC came with the promise of making the practice history. But history appears to be repeating with vengeance.

How does the performance of CSC compare with that of PSD? In the late 1980s, PSD introduced the post of Director General (DG) as the senior most public servant in a ministry. For more than 5 years PSD managed to maintain a single DG in each ministry. Similarly after introducing the post of Executive Director (ED), PSD managed to maintain a single ED in a ministry for 3 to 4 years. Compared to this CSC managed to maintain a single PS in a ministry for just about 6 months. Interestingly, throughout the presidency of Ibrahim Nasir, he managed to maintain a single Director to head each department and a single Vakeel to head each division of a ministry.

CSC inherited an extremely top heavy bureaucracy. Let us hope the Commission manages to take decisive action to streamline the civil service.


Anonymous said...

Isn't everything coming full circle!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article. Is Mr President doing anything agains law. No body is above the law please remember.

Ahmed Afaal said...

The Civil Service Commission in actual fact does not have, in my opinion any authority to make a decision such as this. As you have described well in the article, there shall only be one permanent secretary per each ministry. The Civil Service Law as I understand also says that if a ministry is dissolved and a new ministry is formed, the PS post of that ministry dissolves automatically and a new process of appointing a PS shall be undertaken with proper announcement and giving interested people the opportunity compete once again.

Also it is just a shame that the CSC has made this decision. If I am not mistaken and if my information is correct, in situations that we are in, most established administrative structure such as that in India also does not appoint two PS's to one ministry. Rather if need be a Joint Secretary or an Additional Secretary may be appointed. This creates a heavier beureaucracy but maintains the hierarchical structure.

I wonder where the Majlis is? Arn't they gonna take this onto the floor? They established the Commission and there must be a provision that if the Commission breaks a legal provision an action shall be taken by the Majlis as an issue of urgency. Can they also wait complacently? Isn't there something called a no confidence vote?

Anonymous said...


Stable Thinking Process said...

President has to distribute his booties before he can think about other issues

Anonymous said...

Civil service commission was also at first of the opinion that they could have only one permanent secretary in a sigle ministry. then, one of the commissioners who know dhivehi a little bit more than the other commissioners read the law,re-read it and told the rest that the law requires a permanent secretary to be there in each ministry. so, if they place one in each Ministry the law is satisfied. After satisfying the law then they could appoint more permanent secretaries at their pleasure.The more the merrier. And some of these Ministries are mega-ministries, so the argument is that they are really more than one Ministry.
Right now Obama is appointing Ministers(secretaries)to his cabinet. The lesson here for us is that he is really finding qualified people who have knowledge and experience in their respective fields for the posts.Not just 'siyaasee' people.Most secretaries in US are technocrats.Republican President Bush's defence secretary, Gate is also ,I hear being asked to stay on.
That's appointing technically suitable people for the Cabinet. Here in Maldives our civil service does not even employ technically qualified permanent secretaries to the respective ministries.How could permanent secs help the ministers technically.Atleast Islamic Affairs Minister need not get help from his perm sec who know a lot less than the minister re Islamic affairs.

Mustafa.I said...

It will take another 100 years to correct this chaos created on civil hierarchy by the previous government over a long period of time.

Anonymous said...

Give the service time to clean up the mess

Anonymous said...

thanks for the interesting artilce!
The current civil service commision is not qualified enough to reform and restructed the country's civil service. we have seen this and we are still expecting the worse. moreover, permenant sect. are part of parlamentry system and not presidental system. it was originally introduced durinng colonal time at Indian Subcontinent, if we want improve and restructure our civil service, first we need to appoint a qualified people for the commision, and who know what is civil service and how it functions. i'm quite suprised that, with all the mess no parlamentarian is taking this issue although they still maintans 2 perm, sect in most of the Ministries which is against the law.
Ahmed Waheed.