Monday, October 26, 2020

Ombudsman condemns ‘arrogance of managers’

Managers in the public service tend to make decisions they are unable to explain, according to findings of the Ombudsman, after investigating complaints by government employees.
When employees who were adversely affected by the decisions queried, they are either made to endure more suffering or compelled to embark on costly routes to find redress. 

“Compounded with the absence of consultation, this has led to a situation where employees are treated as if they do not have rights,” said the Ombudsman, Ofentse Lepodise.
 In his latest report based on a two year period from 2006 to 2007, he noted that when the outcome of a process is not transparent to those affected, they will most likely frown upon it.

“When decisions are taken without involvement of the concerned individual, the implication is that such an individual does not have any rights in the process,” stated Lepodise.┬á

A few case summaries are used as examples of micro indicators of the broader picture that may reflect what has generally become an acceptable management style in the government service.

 One case involves a cleaner at the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) base at Donga, Francistown. According to the report, when the complainant started her job with the BDF, he was erroneously paid at the salary scale A3 instead of A1 which was duly prescribed by a directive from the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM).

 That went on for a period of over 10years up to 1999 when she was posted to the kitchen section, where upon her payment was readjusted to salary scale A1 as should have been the case in the beginning.

┬á“This had been going on despite the complainant’s protestations, and despite the fact that there was really nothing that could have misguided the supervisors to underpay her,” lamented the Ombudsman.

 However, it transpired during investigations that such conduct emanated from sheer ignorance about the applicable regulations.

 Moreover, it emerged that after the Ombudsman intervened, the matter went on for over a year, despite painstaking attempts to persuade the BDF about what regulations were applicable regarding the other outstanding entitlements of the complainant.

 Although the BDF reportedly acknowledged that they owed the complainant arrears on salary, it took them 16 years since the grievance
started to readjust her payments.

In a similar instance, a night watchman based in Palapye working for the National Library Services, was denied overtime allowances. He worked for 13 hours per day. He was not paid for work he did during holidays in accordance with the Regulations for Industrial Class Employees (RIE chapter 4).
Since the complainant did not get any assistance from his supervisors, he approached the Ombudsman.

It was established that his supervisors did not respect the Employment Act. They instead chose to ignore him when he enquired about his entitlements.
The Ombudsman found that there is sufficient evidence to show that most officers in position of responsibility do not properly inform themselves of applicable regulations.

As if the litany of woes cited and, ‘the limping service’ offered by those in public service leadership to their juniors was not enough, the report of the Ombudsman goes further to show┬á the casualness with which top management relates to those in their immediate supervision.

To confirm this, reference is made to a case in which a Senior Technical Assistant 1 at Central Transport Organisation (CTO) Gaborone Plant who was paid at C4 scale was assigned to act in a supervisory position without due remuneration for two years.

It was found that no formal appointment was made for the complainant to act in the newly designated position, thus practically denying him entitlement to an acting allowance provided for by General Order 73.1. He protested.
On being questioned by the Ombudsman, the general manager of the CTO argued that since the formal appointment letter was not issued from the outset, no allowance can be given.

Moreover, trade union officials┬áhave intimated┬áthe Ombudsman’s findings amount to a drop in the ocean.
“Employees in the outstations are the most affected in that when an emergency situation arises where any senior officer has to be away from work, there would usually be little time to seek for approval for acting allowance,” said Mbakiso Magola, secretary general of the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU).

 In spite of this, Magola said managers refer to the General Orders citing the issue of approval of acting allowance first when in fact the situation on the ground dictates that work should be done.

 There are cases where people are promoted on the basis that they assume office within a specified time, only to get their pay increase a year later.

 In others, an officer might be informed verbally of their appointment to act. And since acting allowance is not paid retrospectively, such officer loses entitlement to payment for the time they had not been given a letter of appointment.

┬á“This clearly spells abuse of employees which we believe the full realization of the unionization project in the country would help overcome,” concluded Magola.

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