19 August 2007

PSD should have control over VSS exercise

The Star

Government servants should get used to the idea that nobody owes them a living. If they wish to be paid for their services, they would have to work for it.

This is the case in both the private and public sectors. Comm-ercial enterprises will not tolerate anyone not prepared to contribute to the success of their operations.

Without making a profit, shareholders will have to make a tough decision either to reduce workers or close shop. Therefore, those who cannot perform will be fired.

With the Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) proposal, the Government has realised that it is time it took action to address the issue of under-performing staff or those with severe disciplinary problems.

Those with a bad attitude will not only be unproductive but could have a negative effect on their colleagues’ performance, too.

Presently, such workers are merely barred from promotion but this situation cannot continue as their presence could create a distraction to others.

Something more drastic is called for to get them out of the way. The presence of such destructive elements could affect morale and productivity in the section or department.

While VSS makes sense, implementing it may be a bit tricky. First, these unhelpful workers will have to be reported before the Public Service Department (PSD) can act. But the question is: How many are prepared to be the bad guys?

They may not like to have such people in their midst, but are they prepared to be responsible for getting someone dismissed? Since civil servants tend to stick together, they may be prepared to live with the shortcomings of such colleagues.

Therefore, if no reports are made, no action can be taken. The PSD can only act if the bad behaviour is out in the open, such as complaints by members of the public especially in the media.

If the Government is keen to jettison such misfits, perhaps it should not refer to the VSS scheme as voluntary but selective. In this way, it will have some control over the exercise.

Otherwise, they might refuse to bite since the scheme was voluntary. The objective is to reject the bad apples and retain the good. It will be disastrous if the good ones should use the scheme to leave while the deadwood will still be around.

This will only make things worse. Sometimes, it may not be necessary to take any action at all. For example, if civil servants know that they can be dismissed if they don't perform, this may change their attitude.

An example is in the disciplining of children. The father only needs to have a cane in the house and the children will know that if they misbehaved they will be punished. The threat alone is sufficient deterrence.

While the public may welcome the latest move to deal with civil servants, it is also hoped that there would be no discrimination or witch-hunting in implementing this mechanism.

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