Friday, September 26, 2008
I mentioned a little while ago that I support proposals to cull the dead wood from the Civil Service
I received some responses from civil servants who, while maintaining that they themselves work hard, admitted that many of their colleagues do not.
This week, I've had the displeasure to encounter some of those who don't work very hard at all, and as people in the private sector from Cork city to rural Kilkenny lose their jobs this week, the ongoing job security of some of these public sector wasters gets more and more insufferable.
I went to one public records office staffed by civil servants seeking access to public records. There was a big sign on the wall, demanding that people respect a 'business atmosphere' in the place by not eating, drinking or talking loudly.
Beneath it at a row of computer terminals was half a dozen people, all nattering away loudly at each other and on mobile phones, and half of them were munching on sandwiches.
I waited for a staff member to return from the back office to reprimand them. After about ten minutes I realised they were the staff.
Not once did any of them break off to see if I needed assistance or ask what I wanted, even though they'd spotted me entering (it's not a busy place.) I was forced to interrupt their banter to demand someone to serve me. The scowls I got were frankly outrageous. How dare I have the audacity to ask them to do their job!
In a second public records office, I went in to seek a record that ought to be available to the public. The spotty, barely post-pubescent lad behind the counter dutifully called upstairs and was told I couldn't get to see the record.
I asked the poor lad if I could speak to someone more senior, since the record ought to be available and I got no good reason why I couldn't see it. A random woman wandering past told me that I couldn't have it because a local authority had a copy.
I explained that I had no intention of driving halfway across the country to view a record that was two floors above me and ought to be freely available to the public.
Eventually, a balding man with a white-haired tonsure and flakey skin came down to see me. His manner and tone were appallingly patronising as he told me to go to the local authority. I again pointed out his statutory obligation to provide the record or a damn good reason why not.
He just repeated himself, in 'Computer Says No' fashion.
That's when I spotted the smell of alcohol on his breath. At 11.45 am. Clearly there wasn't any point explaining a person's statutory responsibilities to a person who is drunk at work. Nor is there much point in persevering in an office where people tolerate a senior staff member being drunk before lunchtime while on duty. So I left.
In the interests of balance, I have to report that I did go to a third records office this week. I went in with only sketchy information on what I was looking for, but the staff member I met was brilliant.
He gave me an hour of his time as we scoured records looking for what I wanted. When we couldn't find it, he made a series of useful suggestions on how to proceed. When I got more information, I returned to the office and the same guy came to the counter and told his colleague that he was familiar with my search and was willing to help again.
And after another half an hour, we found what I was looking for. I'd like to pay tribute to that excellent public servant while simultaneously deploring the unprofessionalism, laziness, rule breaking and alcohol dependency of some of the other civil servants I encountered this week.