Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Gov’t must walk the Public Service Charter accountability provisions

The third provision of the Public Service Charter aptly states that “Cabinet Ministers are politically accountable to the public for the successes or failures of the Ministries they supervise. Permanent Secretaries are administratively accountable to the public for the performance of their Ministries.

“Every Public Officer is, however, accountable for the due performance of his duties for the general successes and failures of those he supervises. Accountability carries with it the right to share the credit of the successes of the Ministry, the Department, or the Public Officers themselves, but also the responsibility to share or shoulder the blame for their failures. Public accountability demands and Officers should freely and promptly admit and correct their mistakes or failures”.
This is indeed a fully loaded statement.

It brings us to ask the fundamental question of whether government is by any stretch of imagination walking the accountability provision of its own Public Service Charter.

Evidence on the ground shows that government is flouting this particular provision willy-nilly.
If it is not, why is the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo, not taking full responsibility over the mess that has engulfed the Botswana Development Corporation’s Palapye Fengyue Glass project saga?

The Minister of Presidential Affairs is even reported to be contemplating to muzzle the debate of the report that was prepared by a Parliamentary Select Committee that was established to investigate the glass project. Whether he will succeed in his court application to obtain an order to that effect still remains to be seen.

The executive, under President Ian Khama, has been dead silent on the issue as if public funds are not at stake in the project.

The revelation that the project was hijacked by BDC from enterprising Batswana who had put their trust in the BDC as a government investment arm to partner with them in the project are, to say the least, very disturbing.

This is especially so because the project initiators have been completely relegated out of their own project in favour of some shady Chinese Investor whose credentials leaves a lot to be desired. The two poor women should no doubt be reeling in anger and disgust at what their own government has done to them. It is injustice of the highest order.

BDC should be equally ashamed at what it has done to these two Batswana who for all intents and purposes had wanted to be active players in the economy and in the process create scores of jobs for their fellow unemployed countrymen who cannot make ends meet.

Matambo, as the relevant cabinet minister, should be politically accountable for the failing glass project that has, to date, gobbled millions of Pula in public funds. The project is far from completion despite the huge public investment.

It is not only the Palapye Glass project that makes us scrutinise the Public Service Charter accountability provision and examine whether government is by any measure complying with its (service charter) noble ideals. That the charter is noble is irrefutable. It needs men and women of impeccable integrity to uphold its ideals.

It is not only the BDC that prompts us to examine this noble charter. Reports of the mess at the Botswana Meat Commission are no exception. Agriculture Minister Christian De Graaff and his Permanent Secretary, Dr Micus Chimbombi, appear the least concerned.

The importance of BMC to ordinary Batswana cattle farmers needs no emphasis.

Nowhere are we able to discern the accountability of the Minister and his Permanent Secretary as espoused in the Public Service Charter. The duo is completely not taking the responsibility to steer the BMC ship out of its current quagmire. Where is the accountability that is espoused in the Public Service Charter?

We are compelled to conclude that none is visible.

This is not to say we do not appreciate the little effort that has so far been done by way of the appointment of a task force to examine the BMC crisis.

We also applaud parliament for endorsing Kentse Rammidi’s motion seeking a full investigation of what is happening at the government parastatal.

It would be a sad day to ordinary farmers if the BMC saga is not resolved to the benefit of Batswana at large.

As the Public Service Charter clearly states, it is time that our cabinet ministers rise to the occasion and fully account for the failures that besiege their ministries and those corporations falling under their ambit.

It is not enough for the cabinet ministers and their permanent secretaries to only cherish and revel in the successes of their ministries without shouldering full accountability over attendant failures of the corporations they, by law, supervise.

The Public Service Charter is unequivocal that public accountability demands officers to freely and promptly admit and correct their mistakes. It is only through the correction of such mistakes that we can exalt and propel the public service to great heights.

We, therefore, implore our leadership to take heed and implement the noble ideals espoused in the Public Service Charter because the charter no doubt lays a solid foundation of how we need to manage the affairs of our economy.

The drafters of Public Service Charter took a great leap in setting the bar and standards that should guide us into doing the correct things and owning up to our mistakes for rectification.

It is our ardent hope that the country leadership will henceforth take a leaf from the noble ideals espoused in the Public Service Charter and fully account for the failures and successes of their relevant ministries and departments.


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