Liberal Member of the Legislative Council, Rob Lucas, has today called for an urgent review of an appalling example of public service mismanagement in which a public servant had been suspended on full pay for almost two and a half years for saying “bullshit” to a co-worker.
“This appalling waste of taxpayers’ money is one of the worst examples of public sector mismanagement and incompetence I have ever seen and should never have been allowed to remain unresolved for so long,” Mr Lucas said.
The details of this case are as follows:
• In December 2005 a disagreement between two workers at the State Library resulted in one worker being suspended on full pay for saying “bullshit” and also saying words along the lines of “don’t do anything difficult – you might ruin your gorgeous complexion” to her superior. The dispute was of a trivial nature and centred on the superior strongly disagreeing with the worker’s explanation that she had undertaken some computer work in a certain way because a co-worker had provided her with their guidance;
• The worker was suspended on full pay and sent home pending a public service disciplinary inquiry for breaching the public service code of conduct along the lines of not having respect or courtesy to a co-worker;
• No mediation, conciliation or any other similar sensible course of action to resolve the dispute has been attempted;
• Almost two and a half years later, the issue is still unresolved and a disciplinary inquiry is scheduled for next week;
• Advice from a lawyer and an experienced industrial advocate given to the worker indicated that, even though there was a previous record of disciplinary action for minor issues, if found guilty the inquiry could really only justify reprimanding the worker.
Mr Lucas said this case demonstrates starkly what is wrong with the Rann Government management of the public sector. Mr Rann has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on highly paid consultants and trumpeting his Government Reform Commission which was going to provide efficient and effective management of the public sector. However, this worker is pursued for using a word that many other public sector servants over the years would have used without similar action being taken.
“At the same time, he has senior Members of his own Cabinet, including the Deputy Premier who uses language much more colourful than “bullshit” and yet as Minister for the Arts he oversees a portfolio in which a public servant is treated appallingly for using the same word,” he said.
“If Mr Rann is going to insist that every public servant in the future who says “bullshit” will be subject to disciplinary proceedings, then he had better start appointing a large number of additional people to conduct the inquiries!
“If this issue wasn’t so serious and distressing for the worker, then it would be a perfect script for a Monty Python episode!
“The reality is that this issue has been handled appallingly by managers in Mr Rann’s portfolio and it should never have dragged on for almost two and a half years.
“Given the massive waste of taxpayer money and distress to the worker involved, the Rann Government or the Commissioner for Public Employment should ensure this issue is resolved urgently and procedures changed to ensure it can never happen again.”