Hamoud Khalid Al-Sufee, Minister of CS:On the right track! [Archives:2004/713/Opinion]

February 19 2004

Quite often, many people think that journalists never see the good side of anything, let alone Government and are viewed as being addicted to outright criticism of just about anything the Government does or of anyone in Government.
There is nothing that would please the journalist than to say: “Look folks, go on with your work, all is well and running smoothly in Government!”.
After all that would be safer and more convenient than to have to burden one's self with the agonizing task of probing areas of deficiency in Government or the misdeeds of incompetent Government officials.
Nevertheless, it remains the task of serious journalists to keep the public abreast of what officialdom is doing and to what extent is the Government performing its end of the social contract.
On the other hand, journalists should maintain any high hopes within the public by letting them that there are officials, who could be counted on to fulfill the trust placed upon them with a greater feel of the general public's concerns and aspirations.
This observer has often found that senior officials in Government, who owe their rise to political prominence to democratic popular elections tend to perform more effectively and even show greater character and charm, than their colleagues, who rely on appointment up the ladder.
There are exceptions to this, who this column did not overlook in the past, such as Dr. Abdul-Karim Al-Arhabi (Minister of Social Affairs, President of the Social Fund for Development). But as once shown in this column (when highlighting the achievements of the Mayor of Sana'a City), it is elected officials (to Parliament), who were also designated executive positions of responsibility, who tend to be more effective, while reflecting a greater sense of responsibility.
In this league, it is safe to also include Mr. Hamoud Khalid Al-Sufee, the Minister of Civil Service and Administrative Reform, who in the short eight months he took the helms of the ministry, has displayed a remarkable desire to move forward on many of the monumental task of reforming our pathetic civil service in concrete steps, some visible and others on the pipeline – but they are there! This observer had an opportunity to view the latter at work on a couple of occasions over the last four months and must admit that both occasions were far beyond being shrouded by disappointment.
The first important attribute of any senior responsible official is the grasp he shows of the awesome responsibilities that he shoulders.
More important, what are expected of the official? How much determination is there to achieving those expectations? On the sidelines, of course are the characteristics of the official, in terms of charisma garnished with humility and reception to the views of others.
In Mr. Al-Sufee, one senses that there is a sense of his foremost consideration of the expectations of his constituency and those he works with, after all it is the former who put their faith in him by putting him in Parliament, and it is the latter who will help him get the job done.
But Mr. Al-Sufee, at the same time never forgets to weigh in the expectations of his superiors.
In a political environ, such as that of Yemen, this certainly is not easy as Mr. Al-Sufee often acknowledged, but nevertheless believes it is not altogether impossible.
It is obvious to anyone listening to Mr. Al-Sufee that he undoubtedly is in full grasp of the complicated and intricate situation, not just in his own Ministry, but throughout the other organs in the administrative apparatus of the Government, the personnel of which fall under the responsibility of the Minister of Civil Service in one form or another. In eight months, this is a commendable feat in a relatively short time.
Bear in mind this grasp is not a general perception or understanding, but entails an inkling of the quantitative manifestations of this perception and the qualitative ramifications involved as well.
Furthermore, Mr. Al-Sufee reflects an awareness of the other intergovernmental functions involved in managing civil service while not ignoring the challenges that would confront any serious effective administrative and civil service efforts, especially those posed by deeply entrenched vested interests, who will always resist any reforms that could undermine those interests.
It is indeed a tough job, but it simply is tougher on the country to let things stand as they are now, and a vital one for all the other reform activities to have meaning at all.
Donors have in the past looked at civil service reform as a “no fly zone” and the Ministry of Civil Service as a placement office to blow up the numbers of civil service personnel (active or inactive).
However, the apparent current view of the donors, thanks to the convincing presentations of the Minister, is that indeed the Ministry must be active and effective in the streamlining process of the awesome numbers in the civil service (dealing with redundancy, surplus staffing, etc.), in setting the appropriate civil service policies and the practical strategies for their implementation, not to mention, the need to put in place the institutional framework for integrated management of the civil service.
At the same time, the accumulated maladies and deficiencies plaguing the civil service, without prejudice to the maintenance of the dignity of the personnel involved is also a concurrent priority.
One senses the Minister's reliance on transparency as a vital tool for exploring with the other role players the areas of concern, as well as the projected solutions.
In short: “We have nothing to hide, because what we are doing is right and rightfully expected of us by the people of Yemen, the country's leadership and Yemen's sincere friends.” If that is not being at the right track, then what else is it? We encourage all the support that Mr. Al-Sufee and his staff need from all those involved in shaping up our civil service.