Where is our Public Service heading?

Democratic governments all over the world have acknowledged the importance of Public Administration. With the passage of time, we have realized that no government can exist without a strong Public administration to implement its policies.
Readers may ask what is Public Administration and how is it evolving? According to scholars, public administration is regarded as the accomplishing side of government and deals with all activities involved in carrying out the policies ironed out by elected representatives of the people. They also contend that in the 21st century, the field of Public Administration is perhaps the most important speciality area in the discipline of political science. The reason for this paradigm shift is that people want less  government, but more governance.
Having spent my entire career in the Public Service, I can say without the least hesitation that a robust Public Service constitutes a pillar of strength for the whole country. Government relies on the Public officials to translate its policies, deliver on its promises  and respect agreements signed with national  and international partners .Like all commonwealth  countries  ,Mauritius inherited  the Westminster                      system of Public Service, Over the years, we have mauritianised the Service, modernized it and provided the public officials with necessary human and financial resources to carry out  their multifarious                           functions. By  and large, we in Mauritius can be proud of the contribution of the Public Service to the socio-economic development  of the country since Independence.However,the new challenges  on the horizon are exercising an enormous pressure on public officials and it is in those trying times that we can judge whether the Public Service is resilient enough and has the capacity to tackle thorny issues like climate change, sustainable development,corruption,financial  scams ,food securityandsafety,unemployment,energy,water,pollution,  law and order etc.The list is too long to enumerate and if the Public Service does not evolve a proper strategy at the highest level, it may be reduced to the role of fire fighting  i.e. running from one crisis area to another, with little time to devote to long term planning.Unfortunately,this is the perception these days.
For the Public Service, the year 2013 was dominated by the implementation of the Pay Research Bureau (PRB )Report ,hotly contested by the trade unions. The implementation cost was estimated at Rs 4.6 billion, but the government had to find another one billion to implement the recommendations of the Report on Errors, Omissions and Anomalies. Even that report was criticized by some Trade Unions, claiming that more anomalies were created and pressing for another Committee to remedy the situation. The tsunami effects of both reports were felt in the private sector and provoked interesting debates on whether we should agree on general guidelines for a national salaries policy. The question arises as to whether the Public Service is condemned to the scenario described earlier, in respect of future salaries revision or whether it should adopt a new strategy . Who should spearhead the elaboration of that strategy? It seems that those who are paid to think spent most of their time doing routine work. I better not comment on the capacity of the Minister of Civil Service Affairs in taking the reforms to a higher level.
Such probing questions are not answered. The Government is sadly concentrating on the short term. Let us take two concrete examples. Everybody knows that the highest position in the Public Service is that of the Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service. When one has reached retirement age one should go and make room for another person .What, if the incumbent carries on from year to year with the sanction of the Prime Minister? Is that a system which grooms senior officers to assume higher responsibilities? The other example concerns the post of Financial Secretary.Rama Sithanen brought Ali Mansoor from Washington in 2005/06 to head the Finance Ministry. For reasons known to Sithanen,he chose not to recommend someone from the establishment. When Mansoor resigned a couple of months back the government showed to the population that it had no policy on high level appointments. It chose the easiest solution and appointed a former Financial Secretary who left that job more than a decade ago . No succession planning, with the result that capable serving officers get frustrated and this impacts negatively on their performance. If the government continues to manage business in the Public Service in such a casual manner, just caring for the problems of the day, we may legitimately wonder what will be the calibre of people who will occupy key positions in the hierarchy in the future when domestic and global issues tend to become more complex in nature.
I have put a number of questions in the hope that they may trigger an appropriate response in 2014.If not, it will be business  as usual and that will be damaging.