The current events much reported in the local and national news are enough to hang ones head in shame at the sad state of affairs on ‘public service’ in our country. The issues requiring ‘fact investigation’ will find the relevant actors participant in the drama. However, I suspect the deeper issues raised by this episode will be slowly lost and eventually fade out of public memory. Back to square one!
With all my medical and subsequent police training, I have a tendency to look for root cause so that issues can be diagnosed and then fixed to not recur with the frequency they do.
So what are the key core issues thrown up by these murky happenings? 1. How do you create incentive/disincentive structures for bringing in an accountable and public service mindset in governments and public servants. 2. How do you enable right people for the right job in postings of public servants. 3. What are the desired values which should be critical in such appointments. 4. How do you create a mindset of trusteeship in public appointees-both political and the civil service.
If we can collectively think on finding solutions to these issues, we would be thinking on some very important problems in India- 1. of bringing public trust into governance and 2. of governments and the civil services delivering substantial value to the people, instead of seeking personal gains from positions.
Many of my other posts on this blog has some thoughts on creating incentive structures in the police for more public accountability from the police station upwards through Crime Victimization Surveys, improving job satisfaction through training on problem solving, feedbacks from ground level policing to the govt to fine tune policies on various economic activities which generate crime, etc.
One clear solution to the problem of postings is greater transparency. The time has come for filling senior positions in govt after a due publicly telecast interview process and obtaining measurable performance metrics from such applicants. That way there will be more public trust and scrutiny in such appointments, instead of the current closed door methodology.
Leaving the appointees so selected to do their job, with the required delegation of powers to them, for posting of subordinate officers and financial independence to use budgeted funds, will clearly yield desired results on public safety and security.
Such public appointees should also be barred from holding any public appointments post retirement. That will cut any incentive to obey wrongful orders and give them the independence to do the right thing. It may also incentivise them to perform at their current job with utmost efficiency and a sense of delivering public good. .
Maybe it’s time to relook at the structure of the civil service and open it out to more public scrutiny and do justice to the term ‘public servant’. Improving the peoples’ trust in govt and delivery of good and clean governance should be the aim of any such exercise.