Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (Nov. 2) - The Public Service Commission has done the right thing by insisting that all government departments and ministries reduce their costs by 10 percent immediately.

There are wastages in the civil service.

There is duplication of work, overspending in some ministries, high fuel costs in others and just general laxity in accounting for funds spent and resources used.

Every year, the Auditor Generals reports are always full of misuse of funds, overpayment of salaries for civil servants, unexplained high usage of fuel and unnecessary runs and not accounting for the spending of government funds.

The PSC directive, if carried out well, will not only cut down on costs, but will also eliminate a lot of the abuses that are reported by the Auditor General every year.

On the surface, the directive appears to be tidying up loose ends, trimming wastage and fat and turning the civil service into a lean machine that is more cost conscious. While this is all good, it should not come at the cost of delivering services.

PSC needs to ensure that while government departments and ministries reduce costs, the services to the public should remain available and be delivered in a timely fashion.

With a little co-ordination and a lot of communication, workers can be retrained and deployed to other ministries that need help.

This will ensure that services to members of the public are not affected by the 10 percent cuts.

There might be resistance from the trade unions but as long as redundancies are not forced, people must understand that the civil service needs to tighten its belt and trim all the fat. However, PSC needs to make an exception when it comes to departments like the Fiji Police Force.

Freezes on new intakes and filling vacant posts will not help the police force fight crime effectively because numbers are important to them.

At the same time, the PSC should be able to carry out its directive without fear of repercussions from departments like the RFMF.

Let us be realistic.

The Military Council continues to wield a lot of power and influence in government circles. It will defeat the purpose of the directive if the RFMF is allowed to carry on spending unchecked.

Cutting costs will not necessarily make ministries and government departments efficient. That can only be achieved by changing the mindset and attitude of civil servants.

However, cutting costs is a step in the right direction.

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