Message of the Ombudsman on Public Service Day 2020 | 23 June 2020
‘Public officers are the first vanguards of our society’
“Today (June 23), United Nations Public Service Day, we pay tribute to the public service and its ‘army’ of public officers that gives life to our Constitution and its inter-relationship with the citizens.
“It is also an occasion for all public officers holding public office to consider their role as servants of the people. Public officers, in our not-too-distant past, were known as civil servants. But if the name change was meant to break from an offensive language of the past, the task for the 10,500 officers working for government remains unchanged. Public officers are there to serve, not the government, not the politicians, not even the constitution, but the people. They are the first servants of society.
“It is noteworthy that the national vision to which ‘We the People’ committed at the start of our Third Republic was for the sustainable economic and social development of our society. That vision fits snugly into Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. But the peaceful and inclusive society essential to sustainable development can only come if we can give all our citizens a responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making process that will bring an end to violence and conflict, promote the rule of law and guarantee all our citizens access to justice and strong, effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
“This is the primary objective and noble task of public officers. Our entire public service must remain fully committed and engaged in the frontline. Where they fail, citizens will be deprived of their security, rights and opportunities and the delivery of public services and broader economic development will be undermined. There will be no progress.
“It is with this in mind that I dedicate my work as Ombudsman to focus on how to help public authorities see their shortcomings and improve on those services to help guarantee open, transparent and inclusive participation and decision-making. Through my enquiries into the numerous complaints brought to my Office by members of the public, I am given the insight and distance needed to see the weaknesses and the pitfalls and assist public authorities in improving their responsiveness to the needs of and engagement with people in that development process.
“Complaints are often the result of misinformation or bad communication between the public officer and the people he or she is there to serve. Where a public officer cannot show clearly how he or she reached the conclusion upon which the decision was based, the service user will always be left with room to speculate on the process. That, almost invariably, will open the door to accusations of wrong doing.
“My message for civil servants in Seychelles is borrowed from the writings of neuroscientist and author Abhijit Naskar in his book ‘When Humans Unite: Making A World Without Borders’: ‘You are the first servants of the society. On your shoulders lies the responsibility of humanity's present and future. If the armed forces are our last line of defense in any corner of the world, then you are our first line of defense in every corner of the world. Injustice must ask your permission before entering the lives of the people. You, civil servants are the first vanguards of the society’.”