Majlis grants ministers authority over top civil servant

Majlis grants ministers authority over top civil servant
July 19 14:08 2016

The People’s Majlis has approved legal changes to require the Civil Service Commission to consult ministers before appointing permanent secretaries, the highest-ranking civil servant at government offices.

“Public services will be disrupted if permanent secretaries and ministers don’t work together. Day-to-day services cannot be provided to the public,” contended MP Riyaz Rasheed of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives.

The amendments to the 2007 Civil Service Act proposed by ruling party MP Abdul Latheef Mohamed were passed 46-22 at Monday’s sitting of parliament.

Opposition MPs accused the government of compromising the independence of the civil service and planning to sack some permanent secretaries.

PPM MP Faris Maumoon, the son of the party’s leader and nephew of the incumbent president, breached the party’s whip line again and joined opposition MPs in voting against the bill.

Faris warned that the civil service would become politicised as the top official would no longer be appointed based solely on qualifications and experience.

“Civil service employees will lose [job] security,” he said.

The PPM’s disciplinary committee had decided to expel Faris earlier this month for voting against controversial changes to the tourism law at his father’s behest.

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is engaged in a power struggle with his half-brother for control of the ruling party.

The PPM insisted last week that Faris remains a party member as the committee meeting was held in defiance of Gayoom’s orders.

The 2007 Civil Service Act established an independent civil service in the Maldives for the first time. The commission was set up in 2008 and its members are appointed by the parliament rather than the executive to minimise the president’s influence over the bureaucracy.

The responsibilities of the permanent secretary involve managing the ministry and its employees as well as advising and assisting the minister on policies.

But the amendment states that the permanent secretary must manage the ministry “in accordance with the minister’s advice and instructions”.

Last December, Ismail Ali Manik, former permanent secretary of the finance ministry, resigned when he was ordered by the president’s office to fire more than 70 staff.

President Abdulla Yameen had declared that the 24,000-strong civil service is “overstaffed” and stirred controversy after threatening to cut wages for striking staff.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party at the time urged Yameen not to overstep his mandate and dictate how the Civil Service Commission must act.

“Our fear here is that we are reverting to the arbitrary processes that existed prior to the ratification of the 2008 constitution, where a department at the president’s office, as desired by the president, would hire and fire employees,” the party said.