Article 41 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka provides for appointment of officials to the staff of the President of the Country. The Article 41(1) envisages that the President shall have the power to appoint such secretaries, and, in consultation with the Cabinet of Ministers, such other officers and staff as are in his opinion necessary to assist him in the exercise, performance and discharge of the powers, duties and functions of his office.
Further as per the Article 41 (5) where any such secretary, officer or member of the staff so ceases to hold office, the Cabinet of Ministers may appoint such Secretary, officer or member of the staff to any post in the Public Service.
But according to the gazette extraordinary No. 1927/58 – Friday, 14 August 2015, officials belonging to Sri Lanka Administrative Services (SLAS) only have been appointed to posts of additional secretaries, senior assistant secretaries and assistant secretaries.
Others, for instance the officials belonging to Sri Lanka Planning Service and Engineering Services though they are Grade one officials, are appointed only as directors, deputy directors and assistant directors, not as secretaries, as in the case of officials belonging to SLAS.
Why are there these two types of designation? Does it mean that the post of additional secretaries, SAS and assistant secretaries are precluded for the officials belonging to other services such as agriculture, engineering and planning, etc.?
It was meant to compensate the people according to their responsibilities. More work, more trouble, more pay. Though the designation between the support service and the core groups have been differently classified, the Government has not yet introduced the higher salary for the core group than the support service staff.
The support service staff wherever they go in the public service, be it health or engineering or media service, they mostly handle the administration. Even their performance appraisal is not evaluated based on efficiency, because there is no mechanism to measure it. Therefore, their performance is measured based on the EB exam which is based on memorising clauses on the administrative rules. Finally, they get automatic promotion once they pass the EB exam.
One classic example is the post of assistant secretary at a ministry, which will be upgraded as the Senior Assistant Secretary once the official concerned passes the EB exam. In other words, in the support service the promotion is given to the official concerned and not that they are promoted to the other rank while enjoying the benefit of equal salary of an official of the core group.
But the core groups, according to the organisations concerned execute different task as per the mission of that organisation, but they will be promoted if there is vacancy in the upper grade only.
The operational part from the Presidential Secretariat downwards to ministries is handled by such officials appointed as director, deputy directors and assistant director while the officials belongs to SLAS are doing the support services. So it is unfair to treat the unequal equally. Those who are in charge of the operational part at various layers should be paid more than their contemporaries in charge of support services.
The support service personnel and the core groups in charge for operational activities could be clearly distinguished now based on their designations. In the public sector the support service staff posts have been designated as additional secretaries, senior assistant secretaries and assistant secretaries whereas the core group service personnel are designated as directors, deputy director and assistant directors.
In fact those who belong to such services are the best products of schools, because those who got highest marks will be selected to follow courses in science and mathematics streams.
This same phenomenon is seen in the ministries as well, because the posts of senior assistant secretary (media) that prevailed in the good old days during the period of President Jayewardene and President Premadasa was done away when President Chandrika Kumaratunga was appointed as President by a Cabinet paper submitted by the then Minister of Public Administration Ratnasiri Wickremanayake.
Now this post of media officials has been included in to the personal cadres of the ministers and designated as coordinating secretary (media) who will lose his job immediately after his minister lost his post.
I remember during the time President Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa were Presidents of this country, both of them were grumbling that they didn’t get enough publicity despite the fact that they worked for the country.
The media official when attached to the personal staff of the minister has no access to regular staff meetings or progressive review meetings of the ministry concerned. Because of this they are in the dark about what is happening in their ministry. What they will do is to inform the media of the tour itinerary of his minister and expect the media organisations to send representatives to cover it. This is something like summons sent on behalf of his or her minister and not taking any meaningful action to enlighten the masses of the development work carried out by respective ministries.
It is time we take meaningful action to eradicate this type of administrative discrimination in the field of public administration.
A concerned public official