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Sri Lanka has to await lab tests to improve efficiency of SOEs!

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Wednesday, 29 August 2018 00:00

By T. Rusiripala

Speaking at an event a few days before in Colombo, Minister of Science, Technology, Research, Skills Development and Vocational Training including Kandyan Heritage Dr. Sarath Amunugama has dealt with the need to investigate into public money wasted!

Since this is a state that has been in existence over a long period of time and is highly relevant in the current context as well, we have to look at the Minister’s statement carefully. Hence before doing so I wish to quote below an excerpt from the references made by Dr. Amunugama: 

“How do you work better in the Government? How do you work better in the corporate office? How do we improve all these State corporations that we have? Sri Lanka I think is a laboratory because we need experiments to see how these very inefficient giants can be at least brought into moderate efficiency, we are a country with so much of public money being wasted particularly through the State sector. We have to investigate the State sector. Why is there so much waste? Why is so much money which is collected from the taxpayers being wasted due to inefficiency to incorporate the lack of basic management skills? This is a big challenge for all our business school, the business schools must tackle the question of incompetence, corruption, mismanagement and waste in the State sector in Sri Lanka otherwise we cannot move forward.”

What the Minister stated about the prevailing state of affairs in the public sector is very true. He has said it several times before too. Without disputing this fact I wish to view his statement from a different angle.

Firstly, Dr. Amunugama accepts the fact that the level of performance of the State sector is even below moderate efficiency standards. We agree. Public concern of this fact has been adequately expressed wanting those in authority and governing the country to pay heed. The fact of the matter is they have failed. And the state of affairs continues. 

He has categorically admitted that huge amounts of public money are being wasted by State sector. In his public statement quoted above he offers some solutions. One is to treat this scenario as a guinea-pig and conduct experiments of the laboratory type “to see how these inefficient giants can be at least brought into moderate efficiency”! It is therefore not incorrect for the public of this country to assume that Ministers like Dr. Amunugama are without any immediate plans to eliminate public wastage of funds by the State sector organisations. They are still, after so many years, in the experiment stage. 

From our point of view it is indeed a sorry state of affairs. What is worrying us is not the fact that there is wastage but to learn that the Minister in charge of Science, Technology, Research and Skills Development informing the public that we are yet at the primary, embryonic stage in finding a solution to a social menace that was in long existence! He appears to be very much puzzled about this situation in that he wishes to haunt through an experimenting path about ways and means to eliminate these.

Who is at the end of this vicious cycle of public wastage? There is no doubt the people at the helm of perpetration are the political appointees to these state controlled bodies. Mr. Minister, the public of this country have to pledge their innocence in this regard since they have no role to play. They only wait in expectation that the ministers recommended to be appointed by the Head of the Cabinet have chosen their best picks to serve the country. And for ministry nominees to be highly competent, they should have the capacity to manage the State sector organisations without waste, corruption and mismanagement. Now the ministers are complaining publicly that it is not happening? God save the King! Can we do anything to help the situation?

The public of the country need not listen to any poetic presentations on their plight as taxpayers about the burden placed on them due to the utterly absolute inefficiencies of the ministerial political appointees to these institutions. When you appoint incompetent people how can you expect any competency in their affairs?

SriLankan Airlines is the most current glaring example. Some moron blockheads chosen by the political hierarchy based on either nepotism or their expertise to engage in maleficence bypassing the normal appointment criteria have created such a huge mess to the economy of this country. Aren’t the people who appointed them not responsible? 

In the case of the SriLankan Airlines mess, it has become evident from the revelations made at the ongoing Commission of Inquiry that those who appointed these nincompoops have used their power and authority to make public funds available at their disposal for their nefarious activities through dubious and unscrupulous methods. We are witnessing how billions of State bank funds have been misused in this colossal wastage and mismanagements.

Mr. Minister, we have to regretfully state that no business school (your second solution) will be able to put this right and your wishful panacea will never work. Instead if you really want to investigate as you have mentioned in your statement, all what we can add is that there will be a whole line of dereliction of duties and responsibilities extending to several public institutions, starting from the Treasury, State banks, ministries and departments either as contributory negligence or wilful criminal aiding. In some instances it may well have been due to undue influence and political pressure on the officials.

All these point towards one reality. That is the fault of the politicians in selecting unsuitable characters to head the State sector institutions. What is highlighted in the SL Airlines case is only a tip of the iceberg. If one is alert to expressed public concern it is not difficult to surmise the existence of so many other skeletons in the cupboards. They will come to light one day; if not today, under a future Yahapalanaya.

It is therefore prudent and appropriate for the business schools to devote some time to enlighten the politicos if they are truly interested in a course correction belatedly though. There is hardly anything to investigate. There will be other cards in the pack to play the game. If one is serious only. The country has gone through a long period criticising and pinpointing these. Now they look forward to some concrete action beyond the lab-testing stage. 

The innocent public have only one thing to say. Look in the mirror. You will find the culprits responsible for this state of affairs quite candidly exposed by Dr. Amunugama as “the question of incompetence, corruption, mismanagement and waste in the State sector in Sri Lanka otherwise we cannot move forward”.

While we do not wish to attribute the gross inefficiency to the political authorities in this regard, for they will never accept such, we earnestly look forward to sanity for the sake of the future generations of this country.

(The writer is a former President, CBEU.)

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