Reorganisation of the Civil Service.

  566. The Civil Service of Newfoundland exists only in name. In place of an organised service by examination or otherwise under established regulations, there is a collection of individuals who for the most part owe their positions to political influence. There is no cohesion and no esprit de corps. Little regard is paid to the qualifications of candidates for particular posts. As we have said in Chapter V,* the spoils system is in force, and it has been the practice for the party returned to power at a general election to find places in Government employment not merely for their political supporters but also for their friends and relations.

  567. In addition, the Civil Service is handicapped by the arrangement under which appointments are distributed as evenly as possible among the various denominations; in an individual Department, members of one region or another are often by tradition the predominant factor in it, and, in the case of new appointments, efficiency is liable to be sacrificed in order that a person of a certain denomination may be appointed.

  568. The influence of these considerations has been such that good work has been placed at a discount. Impartial administration is difficult; and even where men may have endeavoured to do their best for the country in spite of the obstacles confronting them, they have too often found their recommendations set aside or ignored on account of political or denominational considerations. Persistence in a course of action likely to arouse the opposition of those who have friends at court would at best be foolhardy and at worst suicidal.

  569. In the result, apart from very few individual exceptions, the Civil Servant is apt to be subservient to the politicians, is afraid of assuming responsibility for fear of offending them, has a tenure of office which is liable to be uncertain, and is generally lacking in efficiency.

  570. Moreover, there is no age of compulsory retirement for persons in Government employment, and the politician has been assisted in his design of staffing the service for the benefit of his friends by the peculiar pension system in force. Under this system, except in cases of abolition of office or mental or physical infirmity, Civil Servants do not become eligible for pensions until they have attained the age of 65 years; on the other hand, the length of service necessary to enable a Civil servant to qualify for a pension at 65 years of age is only 10 years. This has encouraged the entry into the service of men of advanced years who have no desire to make a career in public employment and whose only aim is to serve long enough to enable them to obtain a pension. Furthermore, until the present emergency, it was quite common for the pensions regulations to be ignored altogether. A Government desiring either to make room for its supporters or to reward its favourites already in the public service could introduce a Bill into the Legislative Assembly providing that pensions of specified amounts should be granted to named individuals. This Bill, when passed, was deemed to override the Pensions Act and the pensions thus granted were frequently inconsistent with the established regulations.

  571. It is further to be noted that the lack of any fixed age for retirement in itself tends to lower the standard of efficiency (although here again we would like to say that certain exceptions exist); and it also takes away from the incentive of the younger officials owing to long deferment of promotion.

  572. The last point we wish to make is that the defects to which we have referred make the average Civil Servant little qualified to play a part in the control of expenditure. In a normal Civil Service it is to be expected that the officials in a given Department will check and prune very carefully any proposals for expenditure which it may have to meet before submitting them to the Treasury. This is not done in Newfoundland. Moreover, the Departments are apt to make exaggerated cases, whether at the instance of a politician or otherwise, for increases of salary, special allowances or special pensions, for the benefit of favoured individuals. The Controller of the Treasury can rarely rely on the proper co-operation of Departments in checking and curtailing expenditure; and it is necessary for him to assume a greater responsibility in supervising the detailed work of the Departments in this respect than should normally be required.

  573. This is a dark picture. In mitigation of it we are glad to be able to quote a passage from the Budget Speech† of the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Customs last June:--

  "I think that a special reference is desirable to the salaries, and the pensions, of the Civil Service. No one has been more concerned than myself at the severe reductions which have been made both in salaries and pensions in the emergency which has confronted the country in the last two years, and no one appreciates more than myself the spirit in which they have been accepted. Apart altogether, however, from this emergency, I cannot help stating that in my view there is very great need for the reorganisation of the Civil Service. The Service has grown up over a considerable number of years, and in a manner which has by no means been systematic. It will be the object of the Government during the coming financial year to bring into effect a reorganisation which, among other things, will adjust more closely the substantive salaries payable to the actual duties carried out, will correlate posts of the same or similar standing in the different Departments, and will modify the existing pension system in order to bring it into a more close correspondence with those systems in force in other countries. During the past year the Government have decided that no appointment to the Civil Service, unless of a purely provisional and temporary nature, shall be made without an educational test, and this test will be maintained. For the future the competence of the individual to carry out those duties to be entrusted to him will be his sole qualification for appointment; and promotion will in every case be based solely upon the individual's ability to undertake responsibilities commensurate with those of his new position."

  574. It is earnestly to be hoped that early effect will be given to the undertakings which we have quoted and, in particular, that the present political and denominational handicaps to the Service will be removed. We understand that the Government have in view the issue of regulations which will bring conditions in the Civil Service more into alignment with those in force, e.g., in the United Kingdom. We welcome this intention. We feel confident that under the new arrangements there will be a marked improvement in the efficiency of the existing members of the Service. Many of those who are now prevented from putting forward their best efforts or exercising their initiative will then be free to do so; and we cannot doubt that the Service, despite the unfortunate manner in which it has been recruited and the difficulties with which it has had to contend, contains many men who will do credit to the service of their country. On the other hand, there is no doubt that there are a number of men now in Government employment who are not adequately qualified for the purpose.

  575. We feel convinced that the changes envisaged will meet with the full support of public opinion and that, with a new conception both of the obligations due to and of the standards expected from a public servant, there will be created within a few years a Civil Service which will attract the best material in the country and transform the administration of the Island.

  * Chapter V, paragraphs 229-231.
  † The speech is printed in Appendix J.

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