A wake-up call for bureaucrats
Any government employee neglecting public work and causing damage to the people can be dismissed in the highest punitive action under the new public employees act. The stricter work ethics code may hopefully stir up the bureaucratic community, which is often criticized for slacking and lacking a sense of duty and responsibility.
The Ministry of Personnel Management announced that the government would this year enforce a new set of binding punishment guidelines on government employees. Any civil servant found to be negligent in duties will be punished for violating the public employees’ obligation to dutiful service to the people. If casualties or safety accidents occur from administrative slack, causing inconvenience and damage to the public, the individual, as well as his or her boss, will face severe punishment. Accidents or mishaps from active administrative work would be more lightly punished.
The new punitive guideline comes amid a collective pall in the bureaucratic community which tends to regard not doing work as better than falling to temptation or committing illegal acts. It has become a norm not to be eager and engaging in the line of work by just doing what is told. Such cases often lead to administrative disasters. A Board of Audit and Inspection probe last year discovered that a couple in Ulsan had to go through divorce procedures all over again because the district office neglected the paperwork for as long as three years. In Chilgok County, North Gyeongsang, people had to evacuate after a retaining wall crumbled. The district administration gave the go-ahead for construction even when the retaining wall was set up illegally without going through a safety check.
Board of Audit and Inspection Chairman Hwang Chan-hyun warned that neglect and slack in public duty would face punishment tantamount to corruption. But the guidelines must be clear and fair, as the provision can easily be abused by senior officials to punish subordinates. The act should not be used to regulate government employees but to motivate them to better serve the people.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 7, Page 34