Monday, December 08, 2003

Civil Service & decentralization

Anyone wanting an explanation as to why government should be SMALL need only listen to the radio or read the papers to hear what civil servants are saying about the proposed "decentralization". Even this proposed voluntary relocation effort has people up in arms.

"My husband is a specialist and he will not be able to remain in Dublin if his department relocates". "Many civil servants are from outside Dublin, but when they indicate they'd like to relocate 'down the country' they mean to the place they've come from, rarely where the Department wants them to go". Blah, blah, blah.

Dick notes that Civil Service pay levels are not great and that performance measurement is difficult. I'm sure that's true to an extent. But, that's partly due to the fact that the civil service is not run like a business. Civil servants cannot be laid off or made redundant. Nobody is threatening to shift the work to India (which, I'm certain could be done), nobody is trying to automate 50% of the processes so that we can halve the workforce.

Whenever anyone talks about "performance measurement" in a civil service context, we're talking about small changes. But, often large companies divest entire divisions or even go bankrupt as the market changes. When was the last time the civil service unions demanded that a branch of government be down-sized?

Tinkering is the best you can hope for when dealing with the civil service. And, even that will cause unrest.