Editorial for 22 August: Target back on civil servants

Be careful what you wish for, because sometimes you just may
get it.

Deputy Governor Franz Manderson issued a memorandum to all
civil servants Monday ahead of the 2012 Throne Speech and budget address
telling members that, in order to help the country balance its budget, the mark
has been put back on the forehead of the largest employer of people in the
Cayman Islands – the government.

Just as civil servants were digesting the idea that they
would have to start paying for their own health insurance and other measure
including pensions and certain housing allowances, the memo said no changes
would be made.

Instead, the 3.2 per cent salary cut is back, as are other
budget cutting measures.

We feel empathy for those in government who have been on an
economic and emotional roller coaster in the past year. Many must be wondering
if this round of cuts aimed at civil servants is going to stick.

The memo went on to let civil servants know that some of
them are going to have to take on extra duties to cover vacancies that won’t be
filled and that more vacancies can be expected. Those filling those vacuums
will still work for at the reduced salary rate.

What the public must remember is that it has been calling
long and hard for a reduction in Civil Service. If the warnings of the memo
become reality, the public will have to realise reduced resources will impact
on the services they receive from government.

Mr. Manderson’s memo tells civil servants that they’ll have to
work at educating the public how reduced resources are going to take a toll on
service. There are, honestly, some duplications of efforts within the Civil
Service that can be trimmed without too much negative impact on the public. In
reality, we shouldn’t be at this point. Successive governments should be held
accountable for letting the Civil Service become too unwieldy and letting
spending get out of control. At the end of the day, the fix of the budget is
going to come on the backs of real people who may eventually find themselves
looking for work.

At the end of the day, cutting civil servants’ pay isn’t
enough; this is just the start.



  1. A little anecdote about the Caymanian civil service.

    Yesterday I spent 2 hours in a queue at the airport post office. This was because there was only one custome officer, and she was dealing with a business delivery of a few dozen separate items. That customer was being served when I arrived and took another hour and twenty minutes to get seen.

    During the time I was there, there was a static queue of about 20-25 people waiting to collect their parcels. This included quite a few who gave up and were replaced.

    During all this time, nobody seemed to realise that keeping a whole load of people waiting interminably might be a bad idea. Nobody made any effort to try to speed the process up. The security guard was charming, good natured, and anxious to help.

    But, all of that time, I could see 6 or 7 members of the post office staff sitting and doing essentially nothing. I don’t know how many more were out back, but the ones I saw didn’t seem to be doing much and were walking very very very slowly.

    I have no idea whether the post office staff are authorised or qualified to help at the customs desk, but whoever devised the system that gave rise to that queue needs to be fired.

    What was very noticeable however was that the staff of the post office could be cut by well over half with no impact whatsoever on service delivery.

  2. I used to work as a civil servant, one of the policies which was popular with the public, was that the staff were all to wear name badges. Our department was responsible for fish and game permits and some quotas were unpopular so it was decided that we could choose an alias if we wished. Two days later they came and collected the badges including John Wayne and William Shatner, and issued us with our forename and an initial. Still, after the false start, it did work well and reminded you that you were accountable for your dealings with the public.

    There were regular checks, a company of professional actors would come in as members of the public and subsequently report on the quality of their experience.

    One of the most important changes was to create an environment where staff could suggest improvements in efficiency and working practices, and be listened to!
    Now it is their job on the line, that is only fair.

    My final point is to ensure that the axe falls from the top down – government is notorious for adding tier upon tier of extra management but inevitably those wielding the axe are from those levels and if not supervised carefully you fire 4 Indians when you needed to fire 2 Chiefs

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