Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Reason Of The Clerks

Even though the public service has become more politicized during the Liberals' long regime, there are still many top mandarins, current and retired, who are unafraid to challenge their political masters in defence of the public service's interests.

At least one former deputy minister has enough courage (that comes with a secure pension) to speak out against the culture of corruption that pervades the government:

Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberal government is plagued by rock-bottom morale, excessive spending aimed at bribing Canadians, and a string of "stupid" and "foolish" decisions that aren't in the public interest, senior federal bureaucrats were told at a private conference last week.

The grim message came from former deputy minister Harry Swain, who said the federal bureaucracy is being driven to "breakdown" by unnecessary and costly rules brought in by Martin leading up to Justice John Gomery's report on the sponsorship scandal.

"Ridiculous and surreal impositions are raining on the public service from management theorists and politicians -- sometimes the same person -- seeking to bury Gomery," Swain, now executive director of the Canadian Institute for Climate Studies at the University of Victoria, told the bureaucrats.

Swain, according to a copy of his speech obtained Wednesday by The Vancouver Sun, noted that Auditor-General Sheila Fraser had said the sponsorship mess was caused by the breaking -- not absence -- of rules.

"Two hundred and thirty-eight new rules, plus legions of comptrollers and auditors, will not prevent malfeasance if a prime minister decides that a higher cause justifies playing fast and loose with the rules."

Swain has hit the nail on the head: the Liberals don't care about the rules. New rules to prevent corrupt practice are not intended to work: they are intended to give the appearance of action.

In fact, one might almost discern a vicious circle created by the volumes of new regulations and procedures.

If followed faithfully, they paralyze the public service with red tape and delays, forcing the politicians and their pliable public service lackeys to break them to get anything done, leading to more corruption and scandal, followed by the announcement and implementation of even more new rules, followed by more paralysis, etc., etc.

It would be refreshing for once to see politicians respond, not with new rules, but with a call for proper enforcement of the existing ones.

But doing one's duty doesn't make for as positive press as sweeping government clean with a new broom!

Source: Vancouver Sun

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