The Fiji Labour Party says that the appointment of many current permanent secretaries as CEOs of respective government departments was unnecessary, unjustified and smacked of elitism and was clearly a case of mutton dressed as lamb.
In a statement issued today, FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry, said that there was no rationale for converting permanent secretary posts into CEO positions (with the doubling of salaries to up to $130 000), when clearly a holistic review of the civil service was needed to address issues of efficiency, transparency and of its relevance in its role as an administrative arm of the State. It was within this framework that a review of all civil service positions should be undertaken and not just a doubling of the salaries of those at the helm, the Labour leader said.
“Simply inflating the salaries of the department heads by virtue of their appointment as CEOs will do nothing to improve the pathetic performance level of the civil service. Furthermore, there is no basis to increase salaries from the current $65000 to $130 000, at a time when government is pleading financial hardship in paying a realistic cost of living adjustment to the thousands of civil servants, in providing basic amenities of water, electricity and poverty alleviation assistance to thousands of its citizens as well as diverting more resources to crime control and crime prevention.
“Many of the CEOs were incumbent permanent secretaries in their respective ministries/ departments and a large number of them were clearly not competent in the discharge of their duties, with the agriculture, immigration, PWD, and fisheries scams being some examples of this,” said Mr. Chaudhry.
Mr. Chaudhry further questioned the tenure of the 5 year contracts saying that it was too long. He said that with most contract officers the tenure of contract did not exceed 3 years so as to maintain the focus on performance. 5 year tenure would see most of these officers attain retiring age and as such there is a potential risk that these officers would not be performance driven.
The Labour leader also questioned the appointments of those who were clearly above the retirement age (for example, Jioji Kotabalavu). “Why were these people, who are well past their prime, be appointed when they should be out of the service to make way for younger and qualified civil servants? Retirement rules should be applied uniformly to all positions in the service and not selectively as seems to be the case here,” said Mr Chaudhry.
“The Labour Party sees the appointments as a breach of section 140 of the constitution, which provides for civil service appointments being on merit, efficiency, equal opportunity and racial parity. A number of these appointments contravene one if not all of these constitutional requirements”, said Mr. Chaudhry.
An incoming Labour government, according to Mr. Chaudhry, would immediately initiate a review of all of these CEO appointments and roll back the senior executive service scheme under which these appointments were made.