July 7, 2007

Here We Go Again

July is a crazy time when you're in government. In an election year, it is time for reinventing and "reinventorying". For terminating job orders and issuing new appointments. For revoking old office orders and issuing new ones.

Election-year July is when you see new faces widowing their way through old office routines. When college graduates are initially given tasks of opening doors, answering telephones, mixing instant coffee. When terminated contractuals join the throng of new hopefuls, wishing for another stab at employment.

In measurable terms, all these translate into around a hundred reams of bond paper. Fifty reams long bond for the inventory forms, for purchase requests, for the personal data sheet to be accomplished in "triplicate." Fifty reams short bond for application letters, office orders, office memoranda, resume, memorandum receipts, etc. etc.

On a non-election year, July is just as "paper consuming." It is when mid-year reports are due, when next year's budget has to be submitted, when outstanding cash advances have to be liquidated, when performance evaluation reports for the first half and performance targets for the next half have to reviewed by the Personnel Evaluation Review Committee.

Never mind if the PERC is non-functional, or if the reports are carefully calculated so that every employee merits a "very satisfactory" rating. Never mind if the computations don't tally. There is, after all, the Productivity Incentive Bonus in exchange for the three copies of four back-to-back pages that takes the better part of two working days to accomplish.

Needless to say, exasperation fills the bureaucratic air every July. This is especially so in the case of Officemate A, who has recently decided that government work is not for her. In the process of "clearing," she found out that she has unliquidated cash advances for travels and seminars. To settle these, she needs tickets, official receipts and certificates of appearances.

Now, Officemate A really attended these seminars. Problem is, all her supporting documents were destroyed along with the old city hall.

"Why don't you just tell them that you lost everything?" someone clueless as to the bureaucratic paper trail asked.

"Because they want you to lie," was the ready answer. Because the rules and regulations say so and not a word more. And because government won't be government without the "here we go again" syndrome that is the theme every July.

I wonder: was Sisyphus--he who was forever condemned to roll a rock uphill--a bureaucrat?

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