Public Sector Reforms: 3. Scholarships and Training

Edited extracts from my Interview with Parmesh Chand, Permanent Secretary Public Service Commission. Vinaka, Tui, for this transcript.

In the area of Human Resource, we are doing a lot of work in reshaping our scholarship programs both for in-service and new entrants to the civil service. We spend as much as $30 million a year on government scholarship but many government scholarships were given in conventional areas like accounting, law, management, economics but the needs of government are not in those areas there’s enough of those people.

Croz: These were tertiary scholarship?
Parmesh Chand: Yes, we have stopped giving scholarships in those areas there is some given but minimal, but now the focus is more on medicine, geo-sciences and veterinary sciences, agricultural sciences, town planning, meteorology and scientist.
A lot of work is being done in that area, we also are looking at compulsory induction training for anybody joining the civil service and latter on have compulsory refresher courses for civil servants but at the moment it has been decided that….

Croz: What happened before?
Parmesh Chand: There was training but the training was given as though you have joined civil service, you are an expert on civil service and you just fit in.

Croz: So you learnt on the job?
Parmesh Chand: Yes, but now we will provide compulsory induction training anybody passing that course will only enter the civil service, like they do in Singapore and Malaysia.

Croz: How much are you consulting with places like Singapore and Malaysia?
Parmesh Chand: What happens is that we are part of the APO we don’t go and undertake field visits but as part of the involvement in APO training conducted in Asia we seek short stints in public administration in each of those countries that we go to so if I go to Korea and spend a few days to learn about Korea Public Administration and then get a lot of ideas. If the course is held in Malaysia we will do the same but we have been planning to go to Singapore but it got deferred from last year into this year and its likely to happen this year to learn about their civil service their work culture, the performance management system they have and how they implement all that.
The other thing we are developing at the moment is developing an integrated Human Resource Database, this database will have strong links with the payroll system because there is a mismatch between the payroll and the staff establishment. So this system will be done by ITC itself and it will be a big exercise itself I don’t know whether ITC has the capacity to do all that so that’s what’s happening with human resources we will provide training we will tidy up the human resources side .
The other big area is the productivity management this is an area where we have failed miserably and we continue to lack behind the government agreed back in 2004—2005 to do away with automatic cost of living adjustments and also to do away with automatic increments and replace all this with implementation of performance based management system, so from 2006 all this stopped of course up to 2006 there was this partnership agreement done to give adjustment in salary to across the board on the civil service.

But when this government came they scrapped everything and said if we have agreed to do performance management system lets work on that. But unfortunately not much has happened in the past year I think much of it is due to the fact that performance management system is new to Fiji and secondly everybody is fearful of the cost so no money gets allocated to this exercise. So the civil service in terms of productivity management we say that you will be rewarded in terms of productivity management if you do this and do that but nobody has received anything. The PS received a bonus which was a one step increment in 2008 but not the rest of the civil service this is a big area of concern for us because there has to be incentive for staffs.

Government is doing a lot of brave things like restructuring, containing the size of the civil service and it is possible that the savings from all that exercise will be deployed to pay them performance monies later on at the moment it’s not upon them.


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