As a civil servant, I was incredibly disappointed with the recent Phoenix audit, although maybe I just expected too much of it. Things that should have been clearly there, I would have thought, were in fact absent. Wording that I expected to be extremely harsh was toned down. Recommendations that would seem to be obvious ways forward were missing in action.
A friend asked me earlier this week where my indignant anger was at the fiasco and I think part of my passivity was because I knew the audit was coming. And I expected it to be a bombshell…a true blockbuster for its impact. Based on the actual wording, it seems more like they were going for a children’s firecracker that fizzled.
I expect three things from an audit:
A clear articulation of the project’s goal and what they were trying to do;
A clear indication of assessment/analysis of performance based on evaluation against an objective standard; and,
Clear indications of recommendations for a way forward and response by the organization how they’re going to address the recommendations.
I wrote earlier on Phoenix and attempted to deconstruct the mess that it has become, although perhaps it is more apt to say the mess it was from the beginning and remains so even now. My focus was on the process, and some people asked me about an apparent lack of sensitivity or where my anger was for the disaster on the victims’ behalf. I’ll defer my anger to my next post, as it goes in a slightly different direction than most.
But let’s address a couple of those sympathy concerns.
First, am I cold, heartless, unsympathetic? Not really, but I am capable of writing about it in a dispassionate tone. Partly because it’s public administration and anything less dissolves into rhetoric. And partly as I view public issues like this almost like a battlefield of wounded. And you have to triage the victims somehow, see who you need to stabilize quickly while prioritizing the serious cases to the head of the line. » Read the rest
It would seem, almost without saying, that if you work for an organization, you should get paid promptly and properly. In international organizations, there is a refrain that is heard for paying of dues — in full, on time, and without reservation. The only time that people should be having problems getting paid is if there is a glitch in paperwork or computers, or maybe when they’re first starting (longer lead time), or perhaps if the company is having cash-flow problems. None of them are acceptable, but the reasons make sense.
On the surface, an organization like the federal government with more than 250K workers should expect at any one time, perhaps an issue rate of 1-3%. Particularly when the people have been working for the organization for a while, most are on salary rather than shifts and hourly totals that change (i.e. requiring the submission of detailed timesheets), and nothing has changed. » Read the rest
I’d really like to call this post something else, but it’s time I stopped holding back on what some people think is their God-given right to complain about how they think the public servant’s job should be done, and that all public servants will “obviously” agree. What triggered my lack of inhibition? Johanna Read’s incredibly biased and non-factual article in today’s Ottawa Citizen (Read: Trudeau is ready but the public service isn’t).
Let’s break her argument down, because there are very few points I can agree with as a career civil servant.
Public service has been cut too far;
Public service is gagged and under-utilized i.e. “scientists”;
Public service is demoralized by previous government;
Accountability measures created by civil servants pushed decision-making upward;
Core business is fearless policy advice;
Challenges in loyally implementing decisions;
Public service values in treating each other are lower;
No market for advice under previous Prime Minister;
Public service policy is now about power games, cliques, and close-mindedness due to empire-building;
Therefore public service is not ready as capacity has been weakened and need management agenda for culture change, including new values, new attitudes, new behaviours.
I have an uneasy relationship with politics. Some people are uneasy because they think all of politics is about sleaze — legalized lying to the voters in order to gain office. Others are uneasy with things like representation by population (or not), special interest groups, the need for compromise, the mudslinging, the promises, the need for more compromises, and the almighty need to sometimes do things that are unpopular but still the “right thing to do” to stop the majority from exploiting the minority. Those aren’t my issues. I’m uneasy because of my job. I’m a civil servant.
Note that I said civil servant, which in and of itself is a clue to my unrest. I didn’t say, public servant, which is the popular term these days. That is used ubiquitously for both bureaucrats and elected officials, which is partly why I don’t use it. I am not elected. I am hired to do a job, or to be precise, appointed under the power of legislation that delegates authority to make appointments to the Deputy Heads of organizations who then in turn delegate to underlings for regular staff appointments, overseen by the Public Service Commission to make sure processes are fair, transparent, etc, not to ensure the “right” person or even the “best” person got the job but that they were qualified. » Read the rest