Deputy Minister State Enterprise Development Eran Wickramaratne addressing the National Convention on 5S
– Pic by Lasantha Kumara
By Himal Kotelawala
Adopting a high level of service delivery that includes international standards and work place organisation methods such as the 5S system was vital to improving the country’s public sector, Deputy Minister State Enterprise Development Eran Wickramaratne said.
Speaking at the National Convention on 5S organised by the Post Graduate Institute of Management (PIM) and the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Quality and Productivity, Wickramaratne said that the biggest challenge for state owned enterprises (SOEs) was improving their management and professionalism.
“To continue good governance, we need to ensure that there is no political interference in the running of SOEs. For the last so many years there has been a notable lack of professionalism in the public service,” he said.
The general public, he said, expects to spend several hours at a government service provider. “Even former Government servants have to endure an arduous and long process to reactive their pension files. It’s the place you worked in. Now you are retired. Now you’re a customer of your government, but this is what you’re faced with,” he said.
The streamlining of systems and the automation of procedures is vital to improving professionalism, he added.
The Deputy Minister acknowledged that, over the last few years there had been some improvement in public sector’s delivery of services like the automated production of passports and birth certificates. However, he said, more had to be done.
“Now we need a higher level of service delivery, adopting international standards and systems like 5S. The standard of service is vital in sectors such as health and education. They have deteriorated to the point that those who can afford to employ private services, do so,” he said.
Wickramaratne noted that it is the poor and marginalised segments of society who cannot afford private sector fees that are left penalised with inefficient public services both in health and in education.
“It is the poor sections that in turn come to politicians come to politicians like myself and demand a government job,” he added.
The public sector is also known for its low pay and low morale among employees, said the Deputy Minister.
“We’re caught in a trap. Politicians, by feeding into this trap, try to protect their voter base, but are really destroying the future of the public sector, destroying the SOEs and destroying the future of our country,” he said.
The Deputy Minister stressed the need of improving professionalism to get the public sector back on track and used international examples to illustrate his point.
“Countries like South Korea and Singapore have at some point all made the transition into a professional public service – using a combination of professional management, expertise, changes in legislation and more investment in HR and in the public sector,” he explained.
Wickramaratne also emphasised the need to use the expertise of home-grown management professionals such as those graduating from the Faculty of Management at the University of Sri Jayawardanapura in efforts to improve the State-Owned Enterprises.