A tribute to hard, honest work

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

They are often the unsung heroes. You see most of the time; it’s the politicians, Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament and Chief Executive Officers who take all the praise. 

But rarely are they publically acknowledged for their contribution to the development of our country. Fittingly last Friday; the country paused to acknowledge the contribution of public servants during the celebration of the Public Service Day in Samoa.

On Beach Road, the parade brought together all government ministries, public bodies and corporation employees. The 5th Samoa Public Service Day also honoured many of those who have retired from the service – including the people who have passed on.

In congratulating the public service, Acting Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, said the public service in Samoa is among the most respected in the Pacific region.

 “Our development partners have often commented favourably on the performance of our public service including in the implementation of projects funded or supported by them,” he said. “Our public servants have contributed immensely to Samoa’s current economic and social development standing as well as our valued engagement with the United Nations and the international community.”

“These achievements are worth celebrating and the contributions by the public service to these achievements must be celebrated.”

Well said Sili, we couldn’t agree. Indeed, there is a time for everything. And from our standpoint, while our role in the media is as a watchdog of the government – and the public service - there is a time and day where appropriate acknowledgement must be made to appreciate good honest hard work. The Public Service Day was such a day, to recognise the important role public servants play. 

It’s a role that largely goes unnoticed and unappreciated at times. It’s also undeniable that there have been a lot of negative backlash towards the poor performance by some public servants. And that’s life.

We cannot deny that there are some public servants who are downright corrupt, dishonest and will do anything to rob the public. 

But not all of them are like that. Often lost in the criticism is the fact there are also a lot of great things done by certain individuals who deserve credit and recognition.  We’re talking about public servants who walk an extra mile to help and provide the services they are paid to offer. The ones who exceed and go beyond the call of duty to serve their people and country. A lot of the times for many of these people, it is a thankless job.

A day like last Friday presented an opportunity for all of us to say thank you, acknowledge them. Over the years, Samoa has hosted some major international events. All these events were hugely successful in terms of Samoa’s ability thanks to the tireless efforts of the public service. 

When we talk about these successes, we cannot forget how people in top government positions had put aside their titles, airs and graces to come together to do what needed to be done. Senior, middle level and junior workers alike all rose to the occasion. They did not care that they were C.E.O’s, A.C.E.O’s and in most cases High Chiefs of what village.

In doing so, they personified what the public service is supposed to be all about – putting the public’s interests before their own. Needless to say, the public service exists to serve the public, not the interests of their political leaders. 

This was a point Acting Prime Minister Sili aptly re-emphasised last week, reminding that the vision of the Public Administration Sector Plan is for Samoa to acquire professional and competent public servants who provide quality service for and to its people.

“Over the course of the last two decades, our government has undertaken a number of reforms and restructuring in the public sector to strengthen organisational performance, financial management and accountability and to improve service delivery,” Sili said.

“It is important for us public servants to be diligent and thorough in carrying out our work responsibilities.”

“We have a duty to respond on a timely basis to the needs of our people. We need to be willing and available to meet with them, to understand their needs and to assist in facilitating assistance your ministry is able to provide within the boundaries of government policy and available resources.”

We’ve said this before and we will say again, public servants are accountable to the public.

It’s unfortunate that most of the criticisms leveled at public servants for the wrong or the good they didn’t do are sometimes due to the apathy and corruption of their political masters. It doesn’t help that public servants are subject to the systems controlled and put in place by these very same people. 

But here is what is most encouraging about our public service today. We’d like to think that a growing number of them are smarter and more ethical than their masters. 

Besides, Samoa is a democracy. There is nowhere in this country’s belief system where it says public servants should serve their political masters to the point where they leave their brains at the door and blindly follow the instructions they are given from higher up.

Let us encourage all those public servants that you always have a choice to speak up against corruption and all manner of dishonest practices you know is happening under your noses in the places where you work. It’s not easy and there will be a price to pay but if you want to make a difference, the people of this country will thank you one day.

Corruption only becomes rife if it is allowed to run rampant for far too long. One gets the feeling Samoa is heading down that path. Let’s not allow that.

This country belongs to all of us – including the public service. We  owe it to our ancestors and we have a responsibility to future generations not to remain silent.

Have a wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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