Maldives Civil Service has given an entirely new meaning to the word 'permanent' by deciding to sack five permanent secretaries barely a year after they were appointed. Five is not a small number considering that they represent about 25% of all permanent secretaries.
The genesis of the problem dates back to last November, when the new MDP government took over and decided to reduce the number of ministries. This left some permanent secretaries in the lurch as their ministries were either dissolved or merged with other ministries. To 'solve' this issue Civil Service Commission (CSC) took the controversial step of assigning two or more permanent secretaries to some ministries, which according to most legal experts contravenes Civil Service Law.
Perhaps it is this ill advised step that led to the current fiasco. Had the Commission assigned the extra permanent secretaries as additional secretaries or joint secretaries at that point in time, it could have been acceptable all round. But in its infinite wisdom CSC refused to countenance this obvious solution all these months. It stuck to its guns so stubbornly as to vitiate the whole atmosphere. So in the end when CSC finally did accept the 'joint-secretary' solution under duress, there were no takers for it.
The way Maldives Civil Service is headed, it does not appear as if it is achieving its purpose. The raison d'être of a civil service is to maintain continuity in policy when governments change. Here we have a situation where 25% of permanent secretaries are sacked in one year. In the coming 4 years if President Nasheed decides to reorganize ministries a couple of times more, the remaining 75% could very well lose their jobs too.
It's not as if we are inventing civil service for the first time in the history of civilization. Why can't we learn how others approach similar problems? One thing we know for sure is that senior civil servants all over the world continue in their jobs (at least in rank and salary) till retirement age. That's why they are called permanent.