Thursday, March 05, 2009

Civil Service "not fit for purpose"

BBC reports on the think-tank Reform's report on the Civil Service.
Giving ministers power to personally appoint senior civil servants would make officials more accountable and effective, a think tank has argued.
Reform said the civil service was "not fit for purpose" at the moment and its deficiencies harmed delivery of policy.
Reform themselves say:
The systemic weaknesses in Whitehall have built up over the years and are now of critical proportions. The Government’s own Capability Reviews into the performance of individual departments have revealed in the phrase that John Reid applied to the Home Office in 2006, that the Whitehall machine is not “fit for purpose”. The Home Office’s accounts have not been qualified for the last two years.
The reasons for this are entrenched – the culture and structure of Whitehall rewards risk avoidance and punishes innovation. One public sector consultant interviewed for this report said that the motto of the Civil Service should be “consent and evade”; others spoke of an absence of “moral courage”. Whitehall is not accountable – success or failure seems to have little or no consequence for departments. It displays inadequate performance management. It is weak at implementation.

At the last Green Party conference, we passed this motion (in the teeth of opposition from the Handbrake Tendency):

This policy aims to help the Civil Service to become responsible for its actions. As things stand, they can and do make recommendations that evade or distort the truth, and often their errors are paid for by Ministerial resignations, which insulates the civil service from responsibility. It also enshrines the principle of non-cooperation with undemocratic governments, in order to make coups and invasions less appealing as an option to anti-democratic actors.
add the following to the end of the Civil Service section of MfSS Public Administration and Government
Civil servants will be responsible for their actions. If an error arises due to actions a government officer, that officer will be professionally accountable, according to guidelines laid down to match the magnitude of the error, up to and including dismissal. A code of ethics will be made available to every government officer, which will include guidelines for when the officer has a duty to act as a whistleblower.
Civil servants will be given a code setting out circumstances where they are not to obey orders. This will include conditions of invasion, or of military or other coup. The effect of this will be to help to make the country ungovernable in the event of invasion or coup.

So there we have it. Green Party is ahead of the game. Click on the Civil Service label below for more grumbles about the Civil Service.

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