A civil servants’ paradise

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A civil servants’ paradise

Public office is an opportunity and obligation to serve the people and not to pursue private interests. That’s why we call government officials “civil servants.” But the result of a recent inspection of their work ethics tells a different story. According to a probe by the Board of Audit and Inspection on civil servants at the Seoul city government, many of them are involved in shameful practices.

Some of them received financial support for renting their houses from the city government when they weren’t eligible for such a generous benefit, while others blithely went to graduate school classes during office hours. That irregularity is the perfect example of moral hazards prevalent in officialdom. The Seoul city government should first take responsibility for the whole mess because it brought it on itself rather than doing the right thing and revamping its work culture.

The city’s policy to provide loans for employees who don’t own homes- up to 70 million won ($66,220) per person at a meager 3 percent interest rate and totalling 5 billion won each year since 2007 - has already drawn severe criticism for being way too generous.

We are dumbfounded that the city government prodigally wasted taxpayers’ money on its own employees instead of implementing the policy as fairly as possible. The inspection revealed that even homeowners enjoyed the financial benefit; others didn’t have to repay loans after buying houses. Worse, there was no regulation on how to pay back the loans so it’s impossible for the city government to retrieve the money. That’s a permanent leak of taxpayers’ money.

It’s also shameful for some of senior officials to have gone AWOL during business hours to attend graduate school. According to Article 50 of the Public Service Law, government workers are prohibited from leaving their offices without permission from bosses and for only legitimate reasons. That is dereliction of duty by Seoul city as it failed to oversee its employees properly. Indeed, the city even pays the basic charge for mobile phone usage to its 9,720 workers after being pressured by the labor union. Seoul can never be free from criticism that it’s a paradise for civil servants.

As a matter of simple fact, the employers are the citizens of Seoul. They will never be happy with civil servants who’d rather squander their tax money than do their best to serve them. We urge the city to enforce strict discipline on its workers before residents get further enraged.
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