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Bureaucrats’ Back and Forth

August 14, 2012

Loup J. Brefort

When you think about it, there are few job titles that should make one feel more proud than to be called a "public servant". Unfortunately, too many bureaucrats do not behave as if they were there to serve the public which, they too often forget, is actually paying their salaries.

I recently came back from a field trip rather depressed by the disconnect between people on the ground that I saw trying so hard to use with maximum impact the grant resources made available by the World Bank to support development in a particularly poor region of Serbia and some civil (so-called) servants in Belgrade that seem to consider that their duty is to make their life as miserable as possible by throwing all sorts of unjustified and, if I may say so, stupid bureaucratic barriers in their path. Just to give you an example: a lady from South Serbia boarded a bus at three a clock in the morning to come to Belgrade and have certain documents signed so the money can be used. A bureaucrat  in Belgrade, who is supposedly a “civil servant”, turned her back and asked her to repeat the trip another day because she used slash instead of a dash in the text of one of the official documents!!! The problem could have been resolved there with a computer and printing machine. And, unfortunately, there were other such examples …!

As a result, time passes, the benefits of this assistance is not reaching the intended beneficiaries that so badly need it and ultimately, free resources may be irretrievably lost since availability of these resources is time-bound. Incompetence? Fear or reluctance to take initiative when the first priority of these bureaucrats is to "cover themselves" rather than to actually do their part to speed things forward? or taking pleasure in showing who ultimately holds "the Power"?

When Serbia is going through such a difficult time, everyone must pull together to make sure that life of citizens and life of businesses is made easier, not more complicated. I remember that my first employer, in Canada, had the following motto engraved on the desks or workplace of every single staff: "There are no problems, only solutions". The ingrained culture in this company was that we were not there to make the work of others more difficult by raising problems, but to find and take it upon ourselves to take action that would facilitate everyone's work and thus contribute to the success of the company and satisfaction of our clients. Maybe the motto should be engraved on the desk of every single employee in the administration and state agencies, at central and local level, and steps taken at every level to instill a culture of service and results?

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