Rising burden – Fiji’s swelling civil service sparks concern

Public Service Commission chairman Luke Rokovada in his office in Suva. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

The cost of funding the civil service over the past six years has increased by 40 per cent, from $750 million to $1.05 billion, according to Public Service Commission (PSC) chair Luke Rokovada.

“For the past six years, the size of the civil service has grown from 27,000 to 35,000 and the cost has ballooned from $750m to $1.05b, about 40 per cent increase in costs,” Mr Rokovada said.

“This is just the cost of the civil service workforce,” he continued. “So it’s a huge challenge and we will have to try and arrest the escalating trend, both in numbers and in terms of cost. However, at the same time, we need to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of services provided and people’s morale is not drastically impacted.”

Mr Rokovada acknowledged that containing the escalating trend in both numbers and cost is a huge challenge.

“It is a challenge for all permanent secretaries as they have to work together, and we have to work together with them from here and address that problem – how we can right size the civil service by containing cost without detriment to the effectiveness and efficiency in the provision of government services.

“The PSC and the Ministry of Civil Service can play a useful role in guiding, coaching, and mentoring staff in ministries and departments in right-sizing the civil service on an ongoing basis as essential ingredients in addressing these challenges,” he said.

“It can be done, but it will take time and a lot of effort for everyone to pull our resources together.”

While other areas would be looked into by the PSC, the total number of the civil service workforce may not be reduced, as the demand for services is ongoing.

“Health services, education, agriculture, infrastructure development and the green economy need to be appropriately resourced to generate growth,” Mr Rokovada said.

“With the support and assistance of permanent secretaries, we will strive to work towards a more lean, efficient and effective civil service.”

“Simple basic services like security, cleaning of premises, transport and vehicle fleet, provision of office buildings and equipment, air conditioning need to be properly examined and reviewed to determine if cost savings are feasible,” he added.

Mr Rokovada clarified that the $1.05 billion salaries and wages bill included the salaries and wages of members of the Fiji Police Force and the Fiji Corrections Service.

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