Setting Up a Good Example [Archives:2002/02/Viewpoint]

January 7 2002

During the last few months I have been receiving some complaints from citizens regarding the service provided for the public at the Capital Secretary Office of the General Authority for Insurances and Pensions (GAIP) in Sanaa. People said the extreme bureaucracy of those employees working at the office resulted in delays and obstacles to regular citizens who were working hard to get their pensions and salaries approved by the authority.
However, I did not have the full idea of the difficulties that those citizens faced at this office until I personally paid a visit to it. What I saw in the 4-floor building was shocking and heartbreaking. I found empty offices, dirty halls, broken windows and doors. I saw piles of files, unorganized desks with tens of papers here and there. Dust and dirt covered the whole place. As if that was not enough, there was extreme frustration among those citizens who were doing their paper work to get their pensions endorsed.
Apart from the inefficiency and ignorance of the staff at the office, those employees actually messed up the working-hours schedule. Even though working hours extend to 3:00 pm, not even one single employee was working after 1:00 pm that day. I saw an old lady who was barely able to walk pleading to have her paper work to release her a few-thousand-rial pension before the end of the working day, but I realized that her work was not completed.
The internal structure and the cleanliness of the building may be something forgivable. But working less hours and depriving citizens of services needed to secure their pensions that they may need to make ends meet, is no less than a crime.
Realizing the miseries that citizens were going through in such circumstances, I decided to pay a visit to Mr. Fadl Al-Akwa, the Administrative and Financial Deputy of the GAIP to tell him of what I saw. Following the noon prayers, I made an appointment at his office and I was allowed in. All I had in mind by then is to give him a picture of the mess that was going on in one of the offices that he administers. I thought I would be given excuses and promises that he would do his best to solve the situation. After all, I did not have high expectations whatsoever.
But Mr. Fadl took me by surprise. He said, If that is the case, then let us go to the site! Yes, he took my hand and we walked together to his vehicle, which had a driver and an escort. In minutes we arrived at the office. It was five minutes to one Oclock in the afternoon. Mr. Fadl wanted to take the employees by surprise and catch them red-handed. He did find a number of closed offices, and asked for the manager.
In a swift manner he walked from one office to another to inspect and find who was working and who was not. This move surprised me, as well as the whole office staff.
Within minutes I found tens of employees gathered in fear and panic around us. You should be grateful that Mr. Walid did not write about us in the press. I am thankful to him for coming to me and notifying me of this mess. You are a source of embarrassment. Mr. Fadl said. The manager of the office tried to give excuses but eventually confessed that what he was doing was wrong. Mr. Al-Akwa insisted on seeing what is going on for himself. He had nothing to lose, but a lot to win. He won the respect of those citizens who were delighted to see him defend their rights. He was respected because he did not sit behind his desk at his luxurious office and only give orders.
Later on I realized that he does this often. He abruptly pays field visits to the offices he monitors and asks citizens who have their papers processed about the way they are treated. I realized that he did not do this for me personally, but he does this all the time.
This man helped me strengthen my hope in administrative reforms for a better future. I feel that he could be set as an example for others to follow. I hope that those politicians who read this column could follow his steps and do as he did. If only a dozen of this governments ministers were like Fadl, then Yemen could be in a much healthier situation.
Thank you Mr. Fadl for setting up a good example.