Letter: The elusive civil servant

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The Independent Online
ANDREAS Whittam Smith's article on the irresponsibility of civil servants (Comment, 7 April) reminds me of a series of radio lectures given by Professor David Henderson as long ago as 1977. His title was "The Unimportance of Being Right".

In his analysis of the reasons for bad civil service advice, he blamed the anonymity of that advice and the continual shifting of civil servants from one department to another. It is always the department's advice. The individual civil servant responsible has most likely moved on elsewhere by the time the consequences are apparent.

"Not only may it not matter much for your career whether or not you were right, but few will ever know". Whether or not a civil servant is often right is not a factor, Henderson found, in the speed of his promotion.