Saturday, February 27, 2021

Gov’t should implement Public Service Charter accountability provisions

This is not the first time that we have been compelled to run a commentary on why government is failing to comply with the various components of its own Public Service Charter (PSC), especially the provision on accountability. We have done it before.

The third provision of the charter 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. ……Officers should freely and promptly admit and correct their mistakes or failures”.

This is indeed a fully loaded statement which 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 continues to flout this particular provision willy-nilly.

While we in the past we dealt with different issues of national interest, this time around the tragedy that has befallen Matsha Senior Secondary School students who perished in a truck designed for ferrying cattle has triggered us to once more ask the same pertinent question of whether the government is making any good use of the Charter.

 Although government has assured the nation that a full investigation will be launched to investigate circumstances surrounding the transporting of the over 100 students and their luggage in a truck to the their various destinations upon completion of their secondary education, it boggles the mind because a policy against the practice has been in place for more than a decade. Why does government continue to allow the transportation of school children in open trucks against the policy? The policy was as we all recall adopted for sound and justified reasons.

The Matsha truck accident is not the first to claim so many lives. Our minds are still vivid with the death of Gosemama Community Junior Secondary School students and others that prompted government to adopt the policy on the use of safer modes of transport.

Accounting officers in the Ministry of Education and Skills Development as well as the Ministry of Local Government under which the Kweneng District Council falls should fully account to the nation for this particular tragedy.

The suspension of the school head is not enough while other responsible accounting officers have been spared the wrath. Heads should roll at both the education and local government ministries. It is disgraceful that nobody has as yet accepted political responsibility.

There is no justification whatsoever that the policy was violated. How did it happen that safer modes of transport had not been arranged in advance before the students completed their examinations? Were the relevant authorities not aware that students who had completed their examinations were due to be transported to their various destinations or places of origin?

There is absolutely no justification why the students were transported in open trucks in clear violation of the policy.

As the Public Service Charter clearly states, it is high time that cabinet ministers rise to the occasion and account for all the failures that besiege the ministries and other departments falling under their supervision. Under no circumstances should they be allowed to sleep on the job.

Responsible cabinet ministers and their permanent secretaries as well as the accounting officers at the Kweneng District Council (Council Secretary) should all without fail shoulder the blame for this horrific tragedy.

The nation has been exposed to an otherwise avoidable tragedy that claimed  the poor souls on the fateful day of the accident.

It is not enough for 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 departments falling under their supervision.

The Public Service Charter is unequivocal that public accountability demands officers to freely and promptly admit and correct their mistakes. Accountability carries with it the right to share the credit where it is due and equally shoulder blame for any discreditable behavior.

It is only through the correction of such mistakes that we can exalt and propel the public service to greater heights.

We therefore implore our leadership to take heed and implement the noble ideals espoused in the Public Service Charter without fail because the charter lays a solid foundation of how we need to manage the affairs of our economy.

Partial and selective appropriation of blame to the exclusion of other relevant players does not inspire public confidence on our leadership. If heads are to roll, let the exercise cut across all sections instead of a select few. 

The Matsha tragedy should be treated as a wake up call for the whole public service.

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