Monday, January 28, 2008

Reality Checked

I’m back again in the office after leaving it for a fortnight for a workshop with two leading experts on evaluation from the world bank. Due to the warning on the news that the procession to deliver the body of our former late president will pass in front of my Ministry, I came a little bit early.

The traffic was just fine. It wasn’t as heavy as it supposed to be on Mondays. But you have to bear in mind it is said by a Jakartan who is so used to and nearly come to the point of becoming desperate and frustrated by one of the most terrible traffic jams one could ever imagine in this planet. Anyway, I made it to the office in less than 90 minutes.

Once I was on the 7th floor I headed straight to my office. No colleague is seen. People will start to show up around 9 a.m. But before I enter my office, one of the cleaning people cried, “Ma’am, that’s not your office anymore!”

My office has been moved. I’ve got a new one, which is not exactly new, since it was my old office before for a rather obscure reason some creative soul in the internal affairs bureau decided to redecorate our rooms and moved mine a distance away from my division. Now, to the delights of my superior, I’m back to my old room which is directly across his own. He could just stroll in and talk. No more talking on the phones.

Which is one of the reason why I didn’t realize it sooner that my telephone line has been left behind. They moved everything from my old office – which included three tables, three chairs, two computers, two very heavy filing cabinets plus all my files, two fake plants and other insignificant useless items I had managed to accumulate during my time there – to a new one with one small exception, my line. To make matter worse the line in my new room – which I don’t even know its number, and no body else seems to know it either – is only for internal usage.

When one of my staff delivered my dissatisfaction, he came back with a reply which not only increased my dissatisfaction but also ruffle my feathers. The reason why I can’t get my old line is because it’s already used by the new occupant of that room!

Couldn’t a person give a better excuse than that? Is switching line such an insurmountable task to undertake or against some unwritten law which nobody else is aware of except themselves? It’s not like we’re on different buildings or floors.

It’s one of the perfect examples of how some of our officials work. Things which are actually very simple could be made to sound very complicated and impossible. One needs to know which tools to use had one encountered such nuisance.

In most cases, all it takes is money or power (using your power to pressure those officials or talk directly to their supervisors). In my case, I addressed my dissatisfaction to my superior and let him handle it.

I really have no patience dealing with officials who withhold their services which should be delivered for free. If your job is to deliver letters, then you deliver them free of charge. If your job is to type, then you type free of charge. If your job is to provide facilities for other officials, then you provide them free of charge. This small incident shows that we still have a very long way ahead to create an effective and efficient public institution as there are still many people in bureaucracy who couldn’t seem to get this very basic principle.

Does the incredibly low salary of government employees contribute to the moral hazards and their low performances?

I might write extensively on the unfairness of Government’s paying system and the performance of its employees when the mood strike me or when I got incredibly jealous with what other government employees in some other Departments/Ministries made ^-^.
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