The Public Service Needs to Up The Ante

The Public Service Needs to Up The Ante

This week Sri Lanka’s new President asked the public service to become more efficient, saying that the roadblocks as it were should be identified early. Several Presidents before this have said more or less the same but no one has quite managed to up the ante.

Public service officials have succumbed to political desires and forgotten that they are the custodians of an efficient administrative arm designed to deliver service to the general public. Some paint themselves in the colours of the ruling party or when those colours are fading, become chameleon-like and switch ‘sides’ although their political affiliations must not – patently so – impinge on their work as administrators.

Ministerial Secretaries have paid lip service to the requirements of the constitution that appoints them as Chief Accounting officers and have played side by side with ministerial-players.

For 71 years since independence Sri Lanka has had a ding-song battle with its power and energy sector. From time to time constantly the people have had to endure power cuts and a variety of excuses are put forth. Not a single administration has been able to come to grips with the concept of reliable and constant power with pre-planned ideas for expansion with growing usage.

One of the cornerstones of an efficient and growing economy is the availability and reliability of power at all times – not just at peak hours but across the 24-hours.

Ministers cannot be blamed for all the ills and it would be ill-advised to only pin the blame on the Ministry secretaries.

Officials within the power sector have spectacularly failed to plan ahead to sustain growing demand and in essence let the side down. The side being the development of the country and its economy.

The energy officials in the country openly admit that approximately 9% of the distributed power is lost in the process of distribution. In at least one area the Auditor General has highlighted this very fact.

Yet when Ministers try to get a grip on the issue and attempt to change the trajectory they are almost invariably led around in circles of frustration by officials who are by and large in bed with various power sector mafiosi. These so-called power brokers have a vested interest in keeping the need to continue supplying expensive procurement of power whilst constantly outwitting the best of Ministers making attempts to change the course for the better.

According to a report the principal supplier the Ceylon Electricity Board admits themselves that the losses in distributing power has an aggregate of 9%. If we are to take that at face value, it indicates that in revenue terms a loss of Rs 28.4 billion or US$ 158 million is routinely thrown out of the window. To put that in perspective it is the same as building a 150 MW power plant each and every year – without the capital cost or an operational cost.

These losses cannot ever be contained but the technology exists to bring it down to well below five percentage points – or virtually increase the revenue by at least USD 75 million each year. At a time when Messers Jayasundera, Cabraal and Attygala are scouring the world for investor funds and to attract much needed dollars to stabilise and arrest the declining economy, lethargy and lack of vision displayed by officials is downright treacherous to say the least.


Boris Johnson has led the Conservative Party to a victory that has been described as ‘bombastic’. With a majority of 74 seats in the House of Commons Mr Johnson will now be able to deliver Brexit. In fact he fought this election on the basis that he will deliver Brexit. The size of the vote indicates that in England the public have voted wholeheartedly in favour of leaving the world’s largest trading block.

Whether it is a growing xenophobia in Britain or other reasons, the public have voted Boris Johnson in principally because he undertook to deliver Brexit – having been frustrated by a lack of a very clear majority in the British parliament.

His Conservative party took the Sri Lankan British Tamil voters very seriously and specifically mentioned their well being. Whatever the merits the Conservative Party has made it plainly obvious that once in power they will not let the minorities in Sri Lanka be treated poorly. The Conservative Party stance to be with the underdog is actually a rather very British affair. The British have long aided the underdog – be it at soccer, cricket or now, human rights.

However it is rather much hoped that whilst Sri Lanka will never mind Johnson’s Britain casting an overall look over this tiny island, Britain will not cross the proverbial line and interfere in the affairs of this country unless the deviation is against internationally acceptable standard and form.


The paradoxical if not bizarre case of the woman at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo appears to have been an ill-thought out plan to obtain a better life away from Sri Lanka at the hands of a largely naive Embassy of Switzerland.

The sad truth of the matter is that the new government in Sri Lanka will need to get used to more such attempts with those with vested interests upping their own game to cause discomfort and bring disrepute to the land of their birth.