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March 05, 2009

Incompetence in the Civil Service? It seems its official!

A major "Think Tank" report out today identifies a number of issues I have been banging on about for years as major problems with the Civil Service and recommends root and branch reform. Personally I think its far too late for reform - nothing but its total annihilation and replacement will serve to fix it. What can be done with an organisation that buys 8 Chinooks, then tries to save money by demanding "modifications" which mean the software necessary to fly the damned things has to be rewritten and can't be - so the helicopters still can't fly eleven years after we bought them! The Civil SErvants say that its the military changed the specification after purchase, in fact if the military spec had been followed by the Civil Servants to begin with the whole sorry mess wouldn't have arisen!

Then there's the debacle of the Passport Office computers which still don't work properly and the NHS has just written off £125 million spent on a computer system that could not be made to work, the MOD (again!) who ordered Eurofighters (Called Typhoons by the RAF) without the "chain gun" supposed to mounted in the wing (To save money) only to find that the plane won't fly without it - so we now have strike aircraft with chain guns fitted that can't be fired. The Civil Service was the invention of the 19th Century. The remarkable thing about it then was that it worked, mainly because it stuck to setting strategy and left the management to "then man on the Ground". It also had a preponderance of Oxbridge academic types running it who recognised that "big government" was not a "good thing". Then some damned fool gave them "management" responsibility for the day to day running of the government. And its gone down the pan from there.

The Report calls for the Senior Civil Servants to be appointed my Ministers and for their appointment to be restricted to three years. Good idea except for the "appointed by ministers" bit. It goes further however and calls for incompetence to be punishable. At present it is all but impossible to get rid of an incompetent or obstructive Civil Servant, and what is needed is a change in the law which allows them to be held responsible for their botches. Not before time, in fact, well overdue! Attend any meeting chaired by the Civil Service on any matter and you will be struck by the fact that no decisions are ever taken and no discussion is ever minuted. Just a heading and a set of initials and a note which usually says, "further investigation" or "deferred".

And the remaining thing that has to be smashed from the psyche is this - and I feel it merits capitals!


That has to be struck from the Civil Service appointments and promotions Rule Book before there can be any hope of a return to the sensible practice of allowing the professionals to manage their profession and not to have glorified filing clerks and HR specialists dictating how rocket scientists, military professionals, fire fighters, police officers and health care professionals do their work!

Posted by The Gray Monk at March 5, 2009 08:50 PM

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