Cont’d from Front [Archives:1997/51/Reportage]

December 22 1997

Background: Sample & Mechanism: At the request of the Consultative Council, a joint team from the National Institute of Administrative Sciences and the Ministry of Civil Service and Administrative Reform has conducted a field survey on the working hours and lost time in government bureaucracy. The team used two major methods of data collection: reviewing the data available at the Ministry of Civil Service collected during January-September, 1997, and an actual three-day field survey of nine organs (3 ministries, 3 corporations, and 3 mixed companies) conducted in September 1997. The samples were chosen with a view of representing the whole category in terms of size, importance and resemblance of other similar organizations. The mechanism used to judge lost time was presence at work. Therefore, the information collected is related to whether employees show up for work or not, absenteeism, and leaving the workplace during work-hours. Performance in terms of productivity was not used as a measurement as it would require more stringent yardsticks. The data was collected three times each day during three consecutive days – at 09:00 o’clock, at 11:00 o’clock, and at 13:00 o’clock. Employees are supposed to show up for work at 08:00 and remain there till 14:00.
Results & Conclusions: 1. Is is clear that the lost time of junior officials is directly related to the lost time of senior officials. In other words, junior personnel are less keen to waste government time, if their seniors show interest in setting a good model. 2. Government ministries are the least punctual in attendance. Total loss of time reaches a phenomenal 45% in government ministries, falls to 39% in public corporations, and to 28% in mixed ownership companies. 3. On average some 2.5-3.0% of the workforce is legally released from work duties for political reasons. These individuals are asked at the end of the month to come and collect their salaries, but they are also asked not to report for work. 4. Of those individuals who are supposed to report for work, an average of 22-27% are absent without notification. 5. Of those individuals who do come to work, an average of 8-21% leave their workplace early and do not remain for the full 5.5 hours of workday. They do not sign the exit slip of the attendance sheet. Some times they try to sign it the next day, if they can. 6. On average, 2.15-3.15 hours are wasted every day by employees who leave their work place and return to it to sign the exit slip, thus technically showing a full day’s work. The most frequent excuses used are to have breakfast, to buy qat, to go for noon prayers, to visit a (sick) friend, etc.
Specific Examples: The surveying team’s report cited the Ministry of Education’s performance during December of 1996. By reviewing the monthly salary payroll, it was found that 2.5% of the ministry’s workforce is redundant. Breaking down this proportion, it was found that 1,520 current employees had already reached the legal retirement age, 925 were without real work or on leave, 145 were given time off to take part in their political party’s activity, and 192 were registered for two jobs in two different places. The following results were found among the senior executive employees in ministry A during the first day of the survey: Disguised unemployment in Ministry A was found to be as follows: – employees staying at home 3 – employees belonging to political parties 62 – employees at retirement age 20 – employees with chronic illness 4 Total 89
The research team concluded the following: 1- There is a 22-27% ratio of continuous absenteeism in almost all surveyed units. These percentages do not include those employees who were on leave or were assigned a task out of their work place. In a few other administrative units, the employees kept a steady high rate of absenteeism of 35-40%. This ratio rises to about 51% during the working days following public holidays. 2- The rate of absenteeism among top administrators and executives is almost similar to that among their subordinates, the relation is directly proportional. 3- There are 12,400 completely inactive employees, forming about 3% of the total manpower in administrative units, who can be classified as access manpower employed in poorly performing establishments that were previously reformed. 4- There is an additional proportion of absenteeism (4-8%) that takes place towards the end of the daily working hours. In some cases, this proportion reaches 21%. 5- All surveyed establishments included some sort of disguised unemployment. There is a marked difference between the actual workforce in each of these establishments and the number of registered employees. 6- The amount of time wasted daily due to the employees being engaged in various activities unrelated to their actual tasks is about 2,15 to 3,15 hours. 7- The average time wasted was as follows: a- 45% in ministries; b- 39% in public establishments; and c- 28% in mixed-sector companies. It should be mentioned here that this survey did not include the executives who do sign their names in the morning. 8- The inspection body in the Ministry of Civil Service found that the percentage distribution by level of discipline among the senior administrative and executive staff of the ministry itself was as follows: – highly disciplined = 28% – averagely disciplined = 22% – low level of discipline = 27% – totally lacking in discipline = 23% This means that roughly 50% of all the senior administration of the Ministry of Civil Service, which is supposed to play a role model, is itself poorly disciplined or has no discipline at all.
Causes of Time Wasting: The average 2,15 hours of time wasted in Ministry A can be broken down as follows:
Minutes    Time-wasting activity 15             Arriving at work, signing, etc. 30             Eating and drinking (breakfast). 30             Lounging in others’ offices or running errands for friends. 45             Leaving early. 15            Using (noon) prayers as an excuse. Total       2,15 hours (minimum) The research team attributed the causes of time wasted during working hours to the following: – Low wage structures: The improvement in attendance in mixed-sector companies may be ascribed to the better wages paid. – Lack of employment stability: Changes in the top management often lead to changes in the lower echelons. – Lack of employment classification and job description. – Inflated number of clerks and employees. – Lack of performance assessment system. – Defects in legislation leading many administrative units to lack in comprehensive legal systems. – Absence of an objective system of incentives and rewards. – Shortage of systematic and regular training leading to low performance and productivity levels.
Recommendations: 1- The necessary measures must be taken to tackle the causes of absenteeism and time wasting. 2- The relevant rules and regulations must be regularly reviewed and strictly enforced and adhered to. 3- The problem of overstaffing and surplus manpower must be tackled. In this regard, the workshop organized during 3-4 December to review downsizing measures taken by other countries made the following recommendations: A comprehensive strategy for administrative reform must be adopted to guarantee coordination among the various state organs along with their economic, financial, educational, administrative, and information policies.
To achieve this end, the following steps should be taken: a- reviewing the administrative structures of the various state organs in order to downsize them according to objective criteria; b- classifying the various posts of the state’s administrative apparatus and its other establishments; c- determining the workforce necessary for each administrative unit in order to determine the extent of the need or surplus in manpower; d- objectively evaluating the job performance of individual employees by adopting the carrot-and-stick method; e- developing the workforce’s skills and abilities; f- re-distributing the surplus workforce so as to achieve balance among the various administrative units in urban and rural areas; g- making the necessary preparations to complete the general job survey and census so as to establish a comprehensive data-base on the workforce; h- adopting an effective policy to limit overstaffing and disguised unemployment, which can be done in the following ways: – limiting the recruitment of new employees to essential posts in vital sectors such as health, education, and the judiciary; – rationalizing the employment of non-Yemenis and instituting a policy of gradual Yemenization; and – putting an end to dual employment in public and defense establishments. j- appropriately amending the civil service law to facilitate the processes of employee transfers, secondments, furloughs, resignations, etc.; k- strictly enforcing those articles of the civil service law that are related to pensioning off the employees who reach the legal retirement age or the legal limit of employment duration; l- developing the appropriate techniques for inspecting and monitoring administrative performance and using modern methods to analyze the likely factors affecting it; m- adopting a policy of incentives to downsize economic establishments scheduled for liquidation or privatization by: – encouraging early retirement; – enticing some employees to leave their jobs voluntarily by providing them with reasonable compensations to enable them to start their own small private projects; and -distributing reclaimed arable lands to laid off employees and young agricultural engineers who are willing to cultivate these lands. n- establishing a special fund to compensated surplus employees when they are laid off; o- reviewing educational policies and modifying them to serve the country’s development needs; p- protecting the public administration form political and social interferences and pressures; q- adopting a transparent way of dealing between the public and private sectors, and removing any legal or procedural obstacles that are likely to impede private investments in Yemen; and r- reviewing the wage structure.
The Consultative Council has now set up a special committee to further study the situation and discuss realistic practical measures that the Government can adopt in order to overcome this bureacratic mess. Yemen Times will publish the CC proporals in due time.