Drastic changes in Ministry Secretaries on the cards
Health Secretary also out?July 7, 2012, 6:43 pm
By Suresh Perera
Heads are expected to roll with drastic changes on the cards in government ministries where top slot secretaries will be reshuffled amidst assertions largely attributed to "gross under-performance" and "inertia" which had led to a slow-down in administrative functions.
"The ineptitude on the part of some of secretaries who head key ministries under which vital state institutions function has contributed towards retarding the government’s development initiative", officials said last week.
Officials who have been sluggish are expected to be moved out with some new faces brought in, while those who had performed well and kept up to expectations are to be entrusted with bigger responsibilities, they claimed.
The changes have already been finalized by President Mahinda Rajapaksa – the appointing authority of ministry secretaries under Sri Lanka’s Constitution – and are due to be announced anytime soon, the officials said.
All indications are that the incumbents of these top positions are expected to resign early this week and the reshuffle completed within the days to follow, they noted. "It’s all in the offing".
Dr. Ravindra Ruberu, who heads the Health Ministry as its secretary in a vitally important sphere in the country, is also billed to be replaced, they said. "Dr. Nihal Jayatilleka, Secretary, Ministry of Local Government, will succeed him".
"I am officially unaware of such an impending appointment", Jayatilleka responded, when asked by The Sunday Island whether he has been nominated for the government health sector’s top job.
"There is speculation but I cannot comment without any official intimation", he smiled. "Let’s wait and see".
The state health sphere has come under heavy flak in recent times with allegations of "virtual chaos" in tender procurements and administrative functions.
Ruberu was appointed secretary to the ministry by the President after Maithripala Sirisena took over as Health Minister from Nimal Siripala de Silva.
"I have not been asked to step down but the talk is that a reshuffle of ministry secretaries is on the cards", Ruberu said yesterday.
Asked whether his resignation has been sought, he replied, "No, I have not been asked to resign. It concerns not only myself but all secretaries".
Ruberu was overseas and returned to the country on Friday night.
There are many critical flaws and drawbacks in institutions under the purview of ministries, but the health segment has come under fire not only for alleged tender irregularities but also on administrative disruptions caused by the continued non-filling of senior medical vacancies, officials said.
What can be more shocking than to discover that 35 plus senior medical administrative positions, including many directorships of key hospitals, remain unfilled?, they asked. "It has always been the case of passing the buck".
This unprecedented development has resulted in a plethora of "acting appointments" to important slots, some continuing for years in top capacities such as regional directors of health services, directors of hospitals and divisions within the Health Ministry, they said.
Some of the key director slots that still remain vacant were identified by medical officials as Tertiary Care Services, Estate and Urban Health Development, Mental Health, Ratnapura General Hospital, Kalutara General Hospital, Lady Ridgeway Hospital, Regional Directors of Health Services – Polonnaruwa, Hambantota, Moneragala, Ampara, Anuradhapura and Additional Provincial Directors of Health in all nine provinces (A position created two years ago for which no appointments were made).
Attempts to blame the Public Service Commission (PSC) for this sorry situation were proven futile when a member of this independent body was recently quoted by The Sunday Island saying "the ministry continues to drag its feet despite repeated requests to fill these vacancies".
"We have advertised to fill these positions, whenever possible", Ruberu explained. "Acting appointments have been made until then".
He said there is a dearth of 25 senior administrative medical officers in the system. "We need to get over this".
Notwithstanding repeated calls by the College of Medical Administration of Sri Lanka, Medical Administrators Association, GMOA and ACGMOA, no permanent appointment has so far been made to the directorship of the Tertiary Care Services Division of the ministry.
This key department, which is mandated with the key functions of supervising all tertiary care level hospitals in the country (All Teaching and General Hospitals) and handling administrative matters relating to specialist doctors (Around 1000) and medical administrators (Around 200), has been placed under an acting director for the past two years, they complained.
This is one of the most important divisions in the ministry, they pointed out. "The person now in an acting capacity lacks experience but was ‘handpicked’ by the secretary himself".
Ruberu assured that this position will also be advertised in due course. "We are doing it in stages".
Meanwhile, with Dr. Ajith Mendis, Director-General of Health Services, due to retire next month (August), there is frantic lobbying for this key administrative slot in the state health sector.
Though it is widely believed that he will be given a one-year extension by the President to continue to make use of his experience and expertise, a few other contenders have entered the fray.
"We are hearing some interesting stories these days", medical officials laughed. "One of them is about a Presidential Special Investigations Unit (SIU) probe into procurements made by a top man and another is on a big guy who had taken a woman for an official confab in a European capital".
The story has it that they had been touring Europe and the man had turned upat the conference only on the three days the Minister attended it, they asserted.
What’s Sri Lanka’s best overseas Test win?
Last Updated May 25 2013 | 03:45 pm