CHAPTER X.--SUBSIDIARY RECOMMENDATIONS.
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
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
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
* Chapter V, paragraphs 229-231.
The speech is printed in Appendix J.