“There must also be other programs where the government can save without having to target the bureaucracy which, as it is, should be strengthened and not weakened”
Ever since I can remember, every new administration comes up with the idea of reviewing the staffing patterns of the government bureaucracy for the purpose of downsizing it to save money.
In the end, however, the effort oftentimes failed with the bureaucracy even growing bigger than before.
This administration is no different.
It has, however, come out with the term rightsizing. The stated intention is to eliminate redundant positions and reposition government workers to posts where they are best qualified and needed.
This gives the impression that the government intention is not really to downsize as some critics are saying but repositioning.
If this is the real intention, the government is of course right.
There are indeed so many redundant positions that should be eliminated.
Unfortunately, some government executives gave themselves away by saying the repositioning alone or whatever it is called will eventually save about P14.8 billion which means that positions will be eliminated.
The savings can then be used for “social welfare programs, infrastructure, health and agriculture.”
Unsurprisingly, an organization of government workers immediately punched on this revelation, saying this clearly shows the insincerity of the government.
What the government really wants to do, according to them, is to downsize and not right size the bureaucracy.
Lost in all the debate is the issue of what exactly should be the right size of the government bureaucracy.
We keep hearing the government bureaucracy is so overstaffed that it needs to be trimmed.
The right number normally depends on the staffing pattern determined by the agency with the approval of the Civil Service Commission.
The rule of thumb in many countries is that there should be one million bureaucrats in government for every 40 million population.
This is the number believed to be ideal in providing an efficient service to the population. Since we already number about 110 million people, we should therefore, have at least about 2.750 million civilian bureaucrats in government.
Since CSC figures show that we have 1.7 million, there is in fact a need to create more positions.
This number includes regular, contractual and job order employees.
Unfortunately, there are some government planners who believe that the government should peg the number of bureaucrats to about 1 million.
This is faulty because this number is clearly not enough.
Given that the population continues to increase, the government has no choice but to also increase the size of the bureaucracy in proportion to population increase notwithstanding the benefits of computerization.
The government may have the best of intentions but the way it is looking, the end result will almost be some kind of downsizing.
And given the prevailing economic situation, this may not be a wise move because the amount to be saved which is P14.8 billion is quite small in the overall scheme of things.
As budget experts will tell us, a lot more savings can be generated elsewhere such as lessening pork barrel allocations, unspent programs, and other savings.
There must also be other programs where the government can save without having to target the bureaucracy which, as it is, should be strengthened and not weakened.
Another question that needs answering is: why does the government have so many contractual and job order employees but seem unable to fill up 177,000 vacant government plantilla positions?
This indicates that there is something that needs fixing in the way plantilla positions are determined and filled. It could also mean that the entire staffing pattern of the government is the one that is in need of a thorough review.
In the military and police organizations, there is the so-called Table of Organization and Equipment.
This means that appointments, promotions must not go beyond those identified in the TO and E.
But, in actual practice, the police is not always following TO and E guidelines and this is why we often see too many Generals and Colonels being promoted.
This is also happening in the civil service.
Hopefully, this will also be addressed by those who will implement the rightsizing plan of the administration.
If this is done the way it should, my educated guess is that the administration will find itself increasing the number of employees in government needed to provide the needed services to the people who as we know are underserved.
Part of the problem is that whatever the government does, the issue of corruption is always not far away.
The other is wasteful spending. If the two can be reduced significantly, then perhaps we can see better services being provided by a well-motivated government bureaucracy.
I do not doubt the sincerity of this administration to want to reform the bureaucracy.
But the timing is bad. Now is not the time to do it.