Once a 15 headed monster, now a corrupt monster - Solomon Star News

Once a 15 headed monster, now a corrupt monster

28 July 2015

We all know that the three heads of the system of governance consists of the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.

It is very crucial that separation of these three heads of the governance must be upheld for the purpose of promotion and enforcement of justice. Right now in our country the three heads of government are apparently “separate” in existence but actually they are not in practice. I for one believe that unless we restore the recognition of this separation of powers, corruption will continue to overshadow our beloved nation.

The present scenario is that the Legislature seems to have the upper-hand in our governance, a kind of dictatorship but in democratic rapping or abuse of power in a legal way.

The non-recognition of the separation of powers by the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary was actually started by our political leaders not long after gaining independence from Great Britain, especially in early 1990s because many elected political leaders are uneducated or ignorant about governance and so the few educated ones make use of their ignorance for political powers.

Such a move was initiated by our political leaders, especially the likes of the late charismatic Solomon Sunaone Mamaloni who thought that the Public Service Machinery was inefficient in its service delivery and needs an over-haul.

According to them the Public Service was a 15 headed monster which consumed a lot of the country’s scarce resources, especially financial, but often produced less than expected. This 15 headed monster refers to the 15 departments or ministries which made up the Public Service during those days.

Moreover, political governments were also critical of bureaucratic red tapes which would often seem to slow down or may appear to prevent execution of government policies hence the need to restructure the 15 headed monster.

I can easily recall when, often politicians would speak long hours in parliament debates on the subject of non-productivity of the Public Service. But despite those negative expressions, by politicians on the Public Service machinery, for more than a decade after independence, it continued to provide the necessary services to our people.

Yes the Public Service then was not perfect, but was kept within its bounds by the General Orders and Financial instructions which the colonial masters had put in place/established, and public servants were disciplined and any perceived corrupt practices were detected easily, dealt with spot on and governance was in complete control of the execution of government services and policies.

For example, during 1980s to mid-1990s the education, police, medical and agriculture officers often would pay regular visits to the rural Solomon Islands without difficulties.

The rural populace during those days felt that they were part of government, unlike these days when such experience is felt only when there a National Election, when aspiring politicians would invade our villages as they campaign for a seat in parliament, making promises which often are not fulfilled.

In the mid-1990s and in particular the years thereafter, the political leaders then said that the Public Service machinery was in dire need of a complete over whole.This huge Public Service according to them was in essence, a 15 headed monsters which must be dealt with.

That there was enough of talk and so the Public Service machinery must be restructured, with the aim of right-sizing it, and turning it to become efficient machinery  in terms of production of services to the people of Solomon Islands.

But the question one should ask then was; who created this 15 headed monster? Was this not the creation by the politicians or governments then? It was the number game played by various governments to hold onto power after gaining independence that created this 15 ministries. In addition, the chairmanships of Statutory Authorities were also used to have the number in order to be in power.

So came 1997 National General Elections when the late Frances Saemala lost the Auki Langalanga constituency seat to late Bartholomew Ulufa’alu who became Member of Parliament and who then was elected as the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands.

The late Bartholomew Ulufa’alu, an economist by profession, but was a Unionist essentially and before becoming a political leader, was at the helm of the General Solomon Islands Workers Union, an organ which he created when he came back from UPNG.

This organ was at the forefront of the fight for improvement of worker’s conditions, especially their wages and salaries.Besides the Workers’ Union he also formed Solomon Islands National Democratic Party- NADEPA for short, a political arm of the Workers’ Union which became the vehicle used to enter the political path for the man.

And so it was not a surprise that as soon as late Ulufa’alu took the leadership of the country, he went on ahead without hesitation with the restructuring to transform the Public Service’ in the hope to “improve” her service delivery to the people of Solomon Islands. In other word he executed the slaughter of the 15 headed Monster, the much talked about idea by political leaders in the past years but which no man dared to execute.

When late Ulufa’alu took the leadership in late 1997 as Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, the plan for the restructuring of the Public Service was already in the making by the former government so Mr. Ulufa’alu’s appearance on the political scene was merely as it were;to execute the slaughtering of the 15 headed Monster. And who else could be the right person to execute such a plan to issue efficiency than an economist?

Solely the purpose of making the restructure of the Public Service as already mentioned above was to make it “efficient” in its service deliveries. And the exercise would involve right sizing it, placing the right persons with relevant qualifications in their rightful positions.

For example the technical and administration carters were to be reviewed; human resources (people) placed in appropriate and relevant positions and are paid their appropriate remunerations. It was common knowledge at that time too that technical people were paid less than those in the administration carter and so the exercise was a thorough over-haul of the Public Service, making sure that civil servants are paid according to their qualifications and experience.

Long serving civil servants, often referred to dead woods would be retired and anyone not given a place in the right sized Public Service Organ would be made redundant.

Been a Unionist late PM Ulufa’alu knew already or anticipated the Public Employees’ Union reaction, when the execution of the restructuring of Public Service would eventuate and so he deregistered the Public Service Union organ so that the Public Servants’ strike would be illegal.

By this time MPs, especially ministers of the government could have so called “Permanent Secretaries” of their choice. The Public Service Commission body under the constitution which was responsible for the recruitments of public servants did not have much to say because politicians now have the upper hand in this matter.

The situation at that time was chaotic and despite the fact that there was a plan in place already for the restructuring, much of these ideas were not followed.

A number of chief executives from the private sector were recruited into the Public Service during this exercise in the hope that they would improve the civil service. This did not work out as expected because many of those who were recruited were friends, one-talks and did not know that the Public Service culture.

To their findings the Public Service was entirely a different animal from that of the private sector and many of them could not handle civil service as expected, a step back in terms of efficiency. Moreover, the seed of nepotism was sown into the government system and so today our country is now harvesting what our political leaders had sown over the years.

The rest is now history; collapse of government securities administered by CBSI in August 1995, the government financial crises, the ethnic crisis, the rise of militancy due to the collapse of the police force, the take-over of government by militants, and Solomon Islands became a failed state.

Looking back now I think this idea of restructuring the Public Service initiated by our political leaders was a mere camouflage to destroy the Public Service Machinery, trampling over lines that separates the Executive from the Legislature and through this exercise,the hands of politicians were extended into the public burse.

By now all of us know that our politicians do not only have political power but monetary power as well. The flourishing of corruption in this nation is mainly due to the Legislature holding Legislative power and monetary power together. The Bible teaches that the love of money is root of all evil (corruption)So does one have to become a rocket scientist to see this?

Now the whole government system; the Executive and the Judiciary  is seen to be overpowered by the politicians, the thin lines of separation of powers of the Legislature, the Executive and Judiciary seem to disappear and the Public Service and Police Prison Service Commissions seem not to be independent but are affected by the political government’s decisions.

Today the word corruption is on the lips of even toddlers and attitudes of many a civil servants are so careless and the common practice is; “catch me if you can.” It manifests in the various government departments and statutory organizations and I think it is costing this country more than we actually know in terms of lost opportunities to create the much needed employments that would easily absorb the growing population.

Outsiders see this as an opportunity and in the name of investments have been roaming this country breaking its immigration and investment laws, using like-minded local cohorts, in the legal fraternity, government ministries, statutory organizations and the private sector for their own gains.

Examples of such corrupt practices are numerous; the Ministry of Health cases, the Forestry and Mines Departments and the RIPEL cases which overshadow this nation for so long are but few examples of what is eating the very soul of this nation.

Even those whom we now place our trusts and hopes for a change are but maintain the status quo. The Public Service is not only a monster but a huge corrupt monster whose tentacles are everywhere. Over many years ghost employees are paid from the public burse and political appointees are added onto the government, comes a new government.

In conclusion I would like to ask this question, now that government is driving for Federalism. Will our legislatures ever again recognize the separation of powers in governance and let go of RCDF, an executive function for the Public Service to administer so MPs focus on their legislative functions?  Then the States can have at their disposal the much needed financial resources needed to provide the services our people fairly?

Or will there be “new” State Rural Development Funds for State Legislatures’ handling; then certainly I will vie for the State Governor of Malaita in the new Republic of Solomon Islands.

By Aihunu Houakau