Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Delivery in the public service has been allowed to  deteriorate

All indications point to the fact that delivery within the public system has slid back to pre-Ian Khama levels.

When he arrived in 2008, President Ian Khama worked tirelessly to improve efficiency, productivity and general service delivery within the public service.

And to be fair to him there were notable improvements.

At the Department of Immigration for example the turnaround time for getting a passport after submission of an application improved to less than a few days while before that it took months to get a passport. At the time, some experts gleefully made references of close to 200 percent in improvement.

It might have been an exaggeration. But they were not too far off the mark.

A national identity card, Omang, was also issued within a few days with renewals often happening while one waited.

At the public hospitals and clinics, queues were slashed almost to none existence.

These improvements were felt across the length and breadth of the public service.

To make sure that they stayed true to their word, departments publicly published information on their service delivery around times.

The nation was told in certain terms how long it took for example to get their Omang cards.

If that did not happen within such a time frame, clear channels of appeal were laid out where a very senior official was ready on the other end to take remedial actions.

And action, including disciplinary was taken to further improve such turnaround schedules.

If the first few months of Khama’s presidency were good for service deliver, then the ensuing years have been a total tragedy.

The deterioration in relations between government trade unions has coincided with a near total reversal of all the gains that had been made in the delivery front.

In fact all the gains have been wiped off. And more!

Poor leadership within the civil service has also been a factor.

Many of today’s Permanent Secretaries have not been appointed on merit.

Because the civil service lacks direction, there is a low morale that cuts across.

Many talented people have either left on own volition or in other instances pushed out because they resisted being drawn into becoming a part of the leadership’s corruption infrastructure.

In a big way, the decay mirrors the decline in other neighbouring countries, notably Zimbabwe and South Africa where the thin but sacrosanct line demarcating politics and civil services has altogether been obliterated.

In this ongoing corruption-inefficiency vortex, it is delivery and decency that have been the  first to suffer.

Today getting an Omang card takes much longer than it was the case before Khama arrived.

Obtaining Birth and Death Certificates has become a torturous exercise.

Officers lack the most basic customer etiquette.

And delivery is clearly not among their concerns.

Customers ÔÇô including the elderly, pregnant women and the disabled have to literally beg public officers including by way of paying tips – ransom is the correct word ÔÇô for them to be helped.

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Sunday Standard August 9 – 15

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of August 9 - 15, 2020.