If you stand up outside of any government agency, on any given workday morning, you will appreciate why the government is so inefficient and gets so little done. Many workers are strolling in to work past the official starting time of the workday – 8 am.
Public servants are habitual and chronic latecomers. And when it comes to making excuses for their lateness, they have readymade answers. The one which is now most prominent is the traffic situation on our roads.
Guyanese have a knack for coming up with creative excuses for being late for work. There was this guy who claimed that he was late because his wife hid his car keys. Another said that a policeman stopped him on the road and took one hour to check his documents.
In almost all of these cases, the latecomers are not losing pay for coming to work late. Government departments have been installing biometric time-recording devices to clock the times at which workers report for duties and leave the workplace. But that is an ornament on the wall, because very few deductions are made for late-coming.
The public should bear in mind that these ‘stragglers’ are being paid by taxpayers. And it is costing the treasury more than 500 million dollars per day to keep its bureaucracy going. When the government claims that it does not have monies to do sea defence works or repair some road or provide better services at hospitals or pay teachers better, it should take a closer look at the large numbers of its unproductive employees.
Lateness is not the only problem within government. The public service is also plagued with time-wasting on the job. Most staffers spend more time on their smart phones than doing the government’s work. The majority of them clock more hours on Facebook during working hours than they spend doing the work for which they are being paid by taxpayers.
Some private companies have sought to restrict internet access for their staff so as to ensure that they spend more time doing the government’s work. Others have restricted access to Facebook during working hours. If such measures were introduced within government, there would be a riot.
Ultimately, it is the public who are being shortchanged, through higher taxes to fund the salaries of these latecomers and slackers. It is therefore not surprising that the public service is overstaffed. Many public servants, particularly those in offices in ministries, are not doing a day’s work for a day’s pay.
The problem, however, boils down to poor supervision. But guess what? Most of the supervisors are also latecomers and trolls on Facebook during working hours.
Supervision can be improved. There is no need to reinvent the public service. The British, long before the computer age, had some simple systems which they employed to ensure greater productivity and efficiency.
One of these was a log book. Every staff member below the level of supervisor or manager was required to keep a log book in which they were required to enter a record of each transaction that they did. And at the end of the week, the supervisor would tally the total number of transactions or jobs done and this would provide a measure of the output of that staff.
Then there was what was called time and motion studies. Someone would be hired to conduct an assessment of the work of each person, to examine the various tasks to which they were assigned and how long each task took, and therefore to set daily, weekly and monthly targets.
All of these tools can now be easily done with a computer. But they can also still be done using the traditional log book.
There is a great deal of wastage within government. It is one thing to describe funding for the sugar industry as pouring money down a “black hole”. But what about the huge sums which are being fritted away each day within the public service through absenteeism, time-off, lateness, time-wasting, skylarking, Facebook trolling and sloth on the job.
If the government takes steps to improve workers’ productivity, it will find that far more than 20,000 workers can be let go without any effect on the services which it provides to the public. It will be able to save more money, and to use that money to fix all the things which need to be fixed within the country.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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