In the Work of Mariano José de Larra, a Spanish author of the 19th century, his criticism of the Public Administration of the time became famous in the work entitled “vuelva VD. Mayana”. Today, parodying Larra’s expression, we can say “don’t come back tomorrow, there’s no appointment either”. Or, what is the same, don’t call, don’t look for an electronic appointment. In a word: don’t try.
The issue is extremely serious because the prior appointment has moved away from its origins – the ability to make an appointment to obtain safer and less serious care, without delay or waiting – to a mechanism of access to the Administration. Not obtaining an appointment is not accessing the Administration.
The Administration has gone on to not receive if it is not by appointment. It is very doubtful that this operation has legal protection, but, above all, it is very doubtful that it complies with the principle of service to the citizen that our laws emphatically preach. This way of acting, which is surely neither conscious nor deliberate, but the result of the gradual degradation of the Public Administration, is placing us in an unprecedented environment for Spanish citizens. Access to the administrative system, to public services, to the Administration is being questioned. Something that was born to be at our service has become something inaccessible, problematic and denatured.
The causes are various and not a single condition. In the first place, the gradual degradation of the staff of the Public Administrations that has not only aged but, above all, that for a long time have become the flank of a priori criticism and, in many cases, without foundation that placed excessive emphasis in spending and not in the function as an element of social legitimacy. This led us to cut public employment offers, to the non-provision of vegetative leave. We’re playing Russian roulette and we’re about to let the bullet go off.
Second, we thought that replacing “unproductive humans” with artificial intelligence fixed everything immediately and without transition. It is very likely that this is the case, but, of course, when the next generations will have to interact with the Administration. Meanwhile, the famous “digital divide” begins to cause irreparable damage to people and to the general conscience of society that does not quite understand the vocation of service of an Administration whose delay in attention is not admissible.
The problem of public management and the Administration is one of the most forgotten on the political agenda
Thirdly, and as a synthesis of a set of symptoms, it should be noted that the problem of public management and the Administration is one of the most neglected on the political agenda. There are no projects, debates, clear ideas, forceful and designed in terms of attention, service and collaboration for the subsidy of social needs. The administration is the guarantee of the exercise of rights, the one that provides essential services for society and the one that brings together collective interests that approximate more egalitarian social ordering schemes. Both emphasizing its unnecessaryness or its superfluous nature has ended up permeating deeply and generating a climate of contempt towards the public that, only now, when we see its effects, are we beginning to rethink its true dimension.
These considerations lead us to differentiate between two planes. The immediate. As its own conception, it implies demanding to take measures to restore the right of access of citizens to the Administration. These measures do not only go through restoring the templates (which of course must occur selectively and with a head and planning) but also require immediate measures. If public services require more personnel (human, technical, or of any kind) they must be provided by the contractual mechanisms that are in the law. Spare parts of the problem, the subsequent question is to analyze the sufficient staff and the necessary means for a normal functioning of the public.
The one with a social conscience. Citizens are obliged to demand the right to “good administration” whose consecration is in the European order. There is no room in our society for an Administration that cannot be accessed. For this, it is necessary to introduce structural reforms, plan, establish an organization and operating model and, above all, consider that the Administration is not the preserve of civil servants, but rather the guarantee of the exercise of rights. This constitutional obligation cannot be declined and does not admit any further postponement on the political agenda.
From there, the challenge of efficiency is not at odds with that of efficiency. It is not about spending for the sake of spending and going back to the past. It is about planning, looking for an operating scheme and commitment to citizens. The need for the Administration and public management is very simple: for someone to think about it and about the situation we are in.