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Rewarding civil servants with Starbucks

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Rewarding civil servants with Starbucks

Guess I'm weird in that I don't have a problem with such a program that rewards good behavior. I've worked public sector, private sector and higher ed. There is deadwood everywhere, and an incentive to do good work is, IMHO, a cost-effective cost containment program.

Couple years ago, working in higher ed, I and two other coworkers pulled an extended weekend and were each rewarded with a $50 gift certificate. Think I chose REI. I put in the least amount of time, and I probably was there working, either from home or on site, for a good 12-14 hours. I coulda been a jerk and just not answered the phone, as was often the case with certain folks and certain groups.

Toronto Globe and Mail
Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The British Columbia. government is defending Starbucks treats for exceptional civil servants that ended up costing $49,368 in the last fiscal year, according to a New Democratic Party review of government credit-card billings.

"Starbucks is one of the very popular staff appreciation awards we give out," Finance Minister Carole Taylor said, noting public service managers are entitled to give outstanding workers $100 worth of gift certificates each year.

"Starbucks is a very easy thing to give someone in recognition of the work they have done, so there is quite a bit of that," she said.

Taylor linked the awards, which range beyond Starbucks gift certificates to vouchers for bookstores and elsewhere, to a continuing drive by the Liberal government to recruit more civil servants and improve morale.

"These gift certificates come about when somebody does something above and beyond the call," she said. "I think it is a positive way to say thank you for doing something extra. These appreciation awards aren't for doing your regular job. They're for doing something above and beyond the call." She added: "It's the idea we have got to defend. It's a good thing to do."

Although the Starbucks cost is minor for a government that spends billions of dollars a year, the NDP spokesman on the issue said the idea is ridiculous. He is also calling for tougher controls over government-issued credit cards. The opposition came up with the Starbucks figure while poring over credit-card expense records.

"I find it a little strange that (civil servants) would be rewarded with caffeine," said Guy Gentner, the critic for Crown corporations and citizens' services. "I would have thought working in the civil service was a reward in itself."

Questions about the 18-year-old staff-appreciation program, launched during the decade in which the New Democratic Party last governed British Columbia, have recently been raised as Gentner has found receipts for spa treatments and other perks while reviewing $57.5 million in government credit-card billings.

"The NDP brought the program in and I think it's a good program," Taylor said, chuckling.

Many expenses have been linked to staff-appreciation efforts. Gentner said he thought the program inappropriate despite its NDP roots.

"I am not an apologist for what had happened before," he said. "It gives me a bad taste in my mouth. It's an arbitrary system. I don't know how you merit good behavior with vats of coffee." Starbucks, he said, seems extravagant.

"My office has a coffee machine-- small, little a Black and Decker you pick up at Costco," he said, noting his staff are welcome to buy Starbucks at an outlet across the street from his constituency office.

"I'll go and get Nabob grounds and brew coffee for staff, free of cost. I don't have to run an expense account for Starbucks."
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