Spotlight on the civil service – 2: a civil servant speaks out

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A civil servant commented on an article on this website with impressions of the civil service:

Our civil service needs thorough scrutiny; unelected civil servants are trusted to inform elected politicians informed and give impartial guidance. When things go wrong the politicians are left to ‘carry the can’, while the civil servants who gave the advice remain with jobs intact and safe from harm.

All aspects of civil service employment including recruitment, training, performance and progression are potentially deeply flawed and corrupt.

From my own experience this includes insidious and profligate managerial manipulation of targets and statistics, contentious priorities relating to treatment of staff, distribution of staffing resource, purpose and priorities of duties and workloads, and procurement.

Specific failings:

  • IT systems are not fit for purpose, with lack of subsequent adequate support for staff who must use it.
  • Poor staff training over perception of vulnerable customers and Work Programme participants.
  • A fundamental lack of confidence caused by inadequate and divisive recruitment, performance, reward, progression and diversity policies.
  • Misplaced loyalties, obligation and integrity among some managers and staff resulting in compliant acceptance of unethical behaviour.
  • Prospects of individual reward, fear, internal politics and power of association lead to covering up wrongdoing and protecting those who avoid proper accountability.

Until this situation is reversed nothing will change for the better to improve our society.

*

Perhaps beneficial change is on the way. The Economist reports that Oxford’s Saïd Business School and the Major Projects Authority (MPA), an agency set up by Britain’s governing coalition to work with the Treasury and other government departments to provide independent assurance on major projects, invited senior business figures to lead discussions and officials share ‘gripes’ with visiting permanent secretaries (the ministries’ top brass). These senior civil servants are some of the most discreetly influential people in Britain; they oversee costly projects ranging from HS2, a planned high-speed railway, to procuring aircraft carriers and a sensitive nuclear-energy deal with Beijing.

There is growing awareness that – as our correspondent said – when such projects go awry they cost a fortune and damage politicians’ standing; governments should indeed be attempting to reshape their civil services into more efficient, less blunder-prone and more public-spirited organisations.


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Posted on May 31, 2015, in Civil servants, Conflict of interest, Democracy undermined, Government, Planning, Vested interests and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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