COLLECTIVE rage gripped Cyprus over the UK court’s cancellation of the halloumi trademark in Britain. Government, political parties, newspapers, radio-show callers all lashed out against the guilty parties – technocrats and ministry officials – demanding that heads rolled for what had been described as a “black page in the history of halloumi,” a “gaffe of gaffes” and an “act of suicide” among other things.
Commerce and industry minister, Giorgos Lakkotryipis, ordered an investigation at the ministry, which was completed within 24 hours, a range of House committees have called meetings to discuss the gaffe, while Diko has been calling for Lakkotrypis to be sacked as he was the political head of the ministry. The Greens went as far as to suggest there was some kind of conspiracy staged by vested interests that disagreed with the milk ratio for halloumi.
The general consensus was that ministry officials and technocrats were largely to blame, even though Akel, like Diko, tried to shift the blame onto the government which it accused of not taking responsibility for blunders committed by the state’s services. Speaking last week, Lakkotrypis said one cause for the failure to submit the relevant documentation in the UK court case was the deficiencies in the ministry’s procedures that he intended to put right.
This is easier said than done, considering the culture at ministries and government departments at which nobody takes initiative or responsibility, everything has to be decided at committees, files are shuffled around from one office to another and nothing is ever done on time. There are no targets employees have to meet, management hides in committees and there is no evaluation of staff performance. The system is designed in a way that discourages initiative, prompt decision making and the taking of responsibility by employees because they are not evaluated on their work. Everyone gets the same pay rise at the end of the year.
Only radical reform of the civil service would yield the results Lakkotrypis wants to achieve, but the last time the government tried to implement moderate reform all its proposals were defeated by the opposition. It is therefore difficult to blame individual civil servants when they are operating in an environment in which things move at a snail’s pace and nobody is under any kind of pressure to work efficiently and achieve results. What happened in the halloumi case was symptomatic of the general malaise afflicting the civil service.
The prevalent fear of responsibility was exacerbated by outside pressure aimed at changing the milk ratio in the application submitted to the EU for the registration of halloumi as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). A ministry official said last week the ministry was under concerted attack, constantly receiving letters, demanding the withdrawal of the PDO file. Lakkotrypis cited this as the second reason for the fiasco. The sad thing is that it does not look like either reason for what happened is likely to be tackled any time soon.
Source : https://cyprus-mail.com/2018/12/11/halloumi-case-symptomatic-of-general-malaise-in-civil-service/