Public servants, road openings and waste of public monies

There is a very fine line between spending taxpayers’ monies to acknowledge and appreciate the work of the public service and abuse of public resources. That much is undeniable.

The thought comes to mind after reading a story titled “Public Service Day a $17,000 waste” published in the Samoa Observer earlier this week. But hold that thought for now folks.

Firstly, let’s briefly look at what the Public Service Day is and what it is designed to do. Those in the know would remember that it is usually a day off for all public servants to celebrate and reflect on their work.

The day starts with a big colourful parade down Beach Road, followed by a speech from the Prime Minister and the annual Public Service Awards, recognising excellence in the sector.

All things considered, there is a time for everything. There is a time and day when appropriate acknowledgement must be made to appreciate good honest hard work. And it’s important to acknowledge the role public servants play in the development of Samoa.

At the government level, public servants at the coalface of policy development and service delivery. While politicians take the attention, many of them are unsung heroes; their roles going unnoticed and unappreciated.

And when things don’t go well, they cop a lot of flak from members of the public. The fact of life is that as public servants, they will always be on the firing line when it comes to the negative backlash – and in some cases deservedly so.

Often lost in the criticisms though is the fact that there are also a lot of great things done by certain individuals in the public service who deserve credit and recognition.

But should such acknowledgement cost taxpayers more monies? We ask this knowing that the public service is already a very expensive exercise in Samoa, costing the country millions and millions of tala.

Now let’s be honest here. Samoa already has one of the highest paid public services in the Pacific – given our population and the size of the economy.  On top of salaries, when we sit down to account for the monies that are allocated for perks, benefits, travel, different allowances, vehicles and much more, we will find that this is perhaps one of the most expensive governments to run.

The private sector can hardly compete with these sorts of salaries and offers.

Which brings us back to the story titled “Public Service Day a $17,000 waste” which was based on a report by the Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee.

In dissecting the Public Service Commission's $4.83 million budget allocation, the Committee drilled holes on the idea of spending more taxpayers’ monies on a public service day, simply calling it a waste of money.

 “The Committee questions the importance of having a Public Service Day for the Government [where] $17,000 is allocated,” the Committee’s report reads. “It is [a] waste of time when there is work to be done, as service to the country.”

The Parliamentary Committee couldn’t have said it better, we think. While $17,000 might not seem like much, the cost of a day of celebration for the public service could easily run into a hundred thousand tala when we take into account that everyone is still being paid their full salaries and all the other perks.

Besides, it’s not up to the public service to pat themselves on the back at the expense of the very people they exist to serve. Keep in mind that many of these public servants come up with all sorts of excuses to reward themselves.  How many times have we seen different government ministries give themselves half a day off for all sorts of reasons – including some of the stupidest things on the face of the earth?

Why must taxpayers pay public servants when they take time off for a health sports day for example? Why can’t they do it on Saturday when it’s their day off? But that’s just one example of the typical abuse we have become accustomed to seeing in Samoa.

When the Parliamentary Committee raised the matter, the Public Service Commission in response offered an alternative to the Public Service Day. They revealed that they are considering going out into the villages to engage with members of the public to inform them firsthand about the nature of public service.

But the Finance and Expenditure Committee was not convinced. So much so they booted the idea to touch. “If that is the case, villages will be burdened,” the Committee responded.

We couldn’t agree more. Can you imagine the burden on the villages in terms of preparing food, gifts, sua and everything else that comes with hosting visiting delegations from the Government?

Speaking of that, a story in yesterday’s Samoa Observer titled “P.M. on Savai’i road trip, opens seven new roads” just couldn’t be ignored. Judging from the photos of the two-day road opening junket, Prime Minister Tuilaepa was accompanied by Cabinet Ministers and a host of senior Government officials.

Can you imagine how expensive such an exercise would be? Vehicles, accommodation, allowances and so forth?  

On the other hand, think about the pressure the Samoan culture would have placed on all those villages in hosting the road opening show? Some of those people are among the poorest in Samoa today; they do not need another burden.

Come to think of it, maybe for this Government, they have become so used to doing this they must believe it is their divine duty to do whatever they want with taxpayers monies.

No wonder they even needed to host a prayer service and have a few drinks to close an airport? Seriously? When will such glorious waste of time and money end?

Have a safe Sunday Samoa, God bless!


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