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The Public Service – the invisible glue

The Public Service – the invisible glue

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THIS WEEK, June 20 to 24, has been set aside by the Ministry of the Public Service, Consumer Affairs and Sports as Public Service Week. It is good that the focus is for once, in a positive manner, on public servants, a group of people we hardly hear much about, but who are vital for the multiple services they render to facilitate our day-to-day lives. Most of them tend to operate in the background, very much like invisible glue that holds everything together.

Food poisoning is painful, even deadly.Who polices our food services to make them safe? Every month thousands of public servants or people on public assistance get paid on time.Who ensures that this happens? Who ensures that our passports are issued in keeping with international standards so that we are able to seamlessly cross borders into foreign countries? Cargo valued in the millions of dollars is imported into our country each month.Who checks to make sure that the imports meet all national safety standards and regulations and that the duties payable to the Government are collected? Who provides our farmers with advice so that their yields increase and quality of produce improves? The answer to all these questions is public servants. They perform critical functions that we tend to take for granted but without which, our lives will be rather chaotic.

During this week, several activities will be held in order that there will be a greater understanding of the virtue and value of public servants in the community. The activities will also seek to foster greater networking and camaraderie among public servants themselves, as very often the workers in one government department do not have a clear understanding of the work done in other departments and tend not to see themselves as part of a large team working towards a common goal.

From time to time, the terms ‘public servant’ or ‘the public service’ are used by members of the public in a pejorative manner, synonymous with low productivity, poor customer service, clock watching and lack of initiative. Also, politicians have been known to use public servants as whipping boys, blaming them when things go wrong in the delivery of government programmes. In some cases, the blame may rightfully rest at the feet of the public servant. But not always.

Public servants are human beings with personal lives that might follow them to work and which may impact their performance. It is encouraging to see that the Government recognized this and launched the Employee Assistance Project a few weeks ago.This programme provides counselling service for public servants and members of their immediate family, so that anything that may impede their productivity at work or attitude on the job can be dealt with before it becomes unmanageable.

Public Service Week is a good idea and should be supported by members of the public. We encourage the public to take part in the activities during this week, including the public speaking competition that takes place tonight at the Methodist Church Hall in Kingstown.

We wish the Ministry of the Public Service every success in their week of activities.