Public sector accountability
Dissatisfied and disgruntled employees in different departments of my local council have come to me to complain and to seek advice. They tell me about the mediocrity that paralyses their ability to move forward. This mediocrity, they say, comes all the way from the top.
The attitude at the top is like this:
"I am paid so much money which will see me nicely into retirement provided I don't rock the boat or mess up. So I will do the minimum necessary to stay in my job."
If everyone thinks and acts like this, then everyone is happy. But my friends are young and ambitious. They have a mission --- not just to save the world. They cannot stand the incompetence around them. How does it work in the private sector, they ask me.
Mediocrity is king only if the company is in a monopoly situation and the status quo wins. Otherwise, it's cut-throat competition. As an employee in companies that were either privately held or publicly quoted, I received regular performance appraisals. There was competition at each level to stay ahead of the game. You could not afford to be complacent and do the minimum.
As a taxpayer, I want to see my tax well-spent. I can contact my local councillor to complain. I can contact the external auditors. I can contact the Audit Commission. I can contact the newspapers. I can form a resident's association to have a bigger voice. I can write and publish stuff on my web site.
But how does a meek employee inside a local council service department complain? Can he/she go to his boss' supervisor? Not if mediocrity comes from the top!
Note: every service should have a "how to complain" or "complaints procedure"
mistakes in police reports: complain to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC)
poor service from Legal Aid: contact the Law Society
poor service from the local council that is financially related (housing benefits, etc): contact the Exchequer Services Director
poor service from the local council: contact the chief executive of the local council.
Demand and expect at least acknowledgement of receipt of your complaint. If all else fails, write a letter to the Audit Commission or the local newspaper.
12 February 2003 Wednesday