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Civil service reforms

May 16, 2016


The Editor
Fiji Times
Monday, May 16, 2016

ON Thursday May 12, under the headline Intake on merit, The Fiji Times reported on an interview with Government MP Ashneel Sudhakar, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights. The report opened with the paragraph “The Government will readvertise more than 30,000 civil service positions to ensure that all intakes are merit-based.”

The article went on to report Mr Sudhakar saying that those employed in the civil service would need to reapply for their jobs.

Mr Sudhakar has complained that he was inaccurately reported by The Fiji Times reporter Nasik Swami. He said in a statement “I made no comment on the readvertising of any positions currently held by civil servants as that is not the plan of the Ministry of Civil Service.”

Mr Sudhakar also denied saying that civil servants who did not meet merit-based criteria would be phased out or retired, replaced or transferred within ministries. He said that these were “never a part of my discussions with Mr Swami and I never made any statements to this effect.”

The interview was tape-recorded. The Fiji Times editorial management has reviewed a transcript of the interview.

Relevant extracts from the transcript are set out below:

Ashneel Sudhakar (AS): OK. So yes Nasik, what we have talked about today in the committee is basically on these civil service reforms. So what used to be the Fiji Public Service Commission will now become the Ministry for Civil Service, right. And what that means is that, you know we had the old belief that once you enter the civil service, you are there for life, life guarantee, life insurance, whether you perform or not, you just hang in there until you retire and you get your pension. That’s all going to change because all the recruitments will now be, that includes the new staff and also old staff who have been there, they will be offered new contracts as part of the reforms. So it will be a contractual system, the duration is still being worked out, we don’t whether it’s going to be three years, five years — but I think, I believe it will be three years. So everybody will be recruited on merit.

Nasik Swami (NS): Ashneel, does that mean that, you know, those who are currently in the civil service [—]

AS: Yes, yes [—]

NS: and, you know, when these new procedures and new criterias kick in, are there possibilities of them losing their jobs if they don’t qualify on merit?

AS: Not possibility — I mean the possibilities are endless — but what could happen is – they’ll all, everyone will be asked to re-apply, right. Like, this is something that is not confirmed yet, it’s still being worked out. Like, probably there is few options — we will let the people who are in there, phase them out, like retire, they will slowly retire out, retire off or we will advertise again for the positions. So if somebody is, for example the deputy secretary of finance, and he’s been there just because of his experience and there is somebody who is a better candidate, they apply and of course, his experience will be counted in there, his qualifications will be counted in there – so not necessarily lose their job, I mean there’s no need to panic that you’ll be losing the job, but maybe a better person can replace you in that position while you are transferred to the other – that’s one option. Of course, the drastic option is to, if somebody’s been there without any merit and possibly by nepotism, then he goes home and somebody else replaces him. Now the bottom line that we want to ensure is not to kill somebody’s livelihood”

NS: Yes?

AS: [?} not to put people on the streets, but service delivery. That has been the hallmark of the FijiFirst government, service delivery, we want that to happen.

Based on the above extracts:

The Fiji Times reported, as a certainty, that all civil service positions would be readvertised. We acknowledge that this was to overstate what Mr Sudhakar said.

He did not say that this would definitely occur. What he said was: “the possibilities are endless — but what could happen is — they’ll all, everyone will be asked to re-apply, right. Like, this is something that is not confirmed yet, it’s still being worked out.”

Mr Sudhakar says that he made no statements about offers to civil servants of phasing out or retirement, replacement where appointments were without merit or transfer within ministries.

However, he clearly made a number of comments on those issues.

Source – Fiji Leaks; Posted by Waisea Varani for SWM
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