Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama was visibly upset yesterday during the National Disaster Management Office briefing on Tropical Cyclone Keni. And he had every reason to be upset.
During the briefing NDMO Director Anare Leweniqila relayed that only 72 primus stoves were recorded to have been distributed to flood victims in the Western division. Mr Bainimarama wanted to know why more primus stoves had not been distributed. He wanted communities and villages like Nasolo Village, in Ba, which were inundated with flood waters to be given priority in terms of cooking essentials.
Mr Bainimarama is well known for getting things done without delay. So one can imagine his reaction when he finds out that things have not happened as he had envisaged. This might be due to incompetence, inefficiency or even laxity in the system or individual performance by public officers.
He has publicly stated his zero tolerance on corruption and abuse of public resources, warning that his Government will not tolerate it.
He was responding to a claim that a public servant had given out food rations in return for bags of cassava. If it is proven to be true then it is a serious offence and whoever is responsible must be taken to task.
He referred to his statement on the issue in the Fiji Sun yesterday and he wanted the message to be passed on to civil servants assisting in restoration and rehabilitation works. One example, Mr Bainimarama highlighted, was about water supply. He said he had received calls from members of the public about water delivery trucks not reaching them.
In fact, water truck drivers decide for themselves where they wanted to deliver.
Mr Bainimarama called on the Water Authority of Fiji executives to urgently address what he called “abuse of authority” by drivers.
The need to get accurate and timely information was also highlighted by the Prime Minister. This was one of the biggest lessons from TC Winston.
Inaccurate and the lack of information resulted in abuse of funds.
Mr Bainimarama said this was unacceptable and civil servants conducting surveys about the impact of TC Josie and TC Keni need to get it right. They need to know their area of operation like the back of their hand.
The message that came out yesterday was clear, a repeat of what happened after TC Winston should never happen moving forward.
The laxity, that is still evident among some civil servants despite the on-going Public Service reforms, points to attitude.
That is why the reforms must continue and be completed to rid the public service of this kind of attitude and its associated culture.
As the biggest employer in the country, the Government justifiably demands that its employees step up and perform to the highest standards because it gets a bad rap when public servants let people down through poor service delivery.
In his tour of cyclone and flood-affected areas, the Prime Minister has been consistent in his message to the country. He wants integrity in Government service and he will not settle for anything less.
That’s why he will not hold back in highlighting areas that need improvement. An increasing number of public servants have changed and complied with the requirements of the reforms.
The remainder, some of whom were involved in the cases outlined in the NDMO briefing yesterday, must change. They should either shape up or ship out.
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