Friday, September 18, 2020

Such a lovely civil service!

It has been a depressing few weeks. Just when we thought we were about to witness a new dawn, Old Man has told everyone to shove it. He has done something not many are capable of. He lost and simply refused to step down.

Obviously, he does not care for the verdict of the people. Their verdict only matters when he wins. But it has not been all doom and gloom. In this part of the world, there is a new regime. The new blokes in power didn’t waste much time trying to get the feel of their new offices. They hit the ground running and started ruling from day one.

One of the things they did was to introduce something called a scarce skills allowance. Now, for many years, government workers have been complaining that they are not paid enough. I have never understood why they want more money. I mean, in my experience I have never encountered a civil servant who seems happy to be at work. When you walk into their offices they are either grumbling, on the phone or eating.

The ladies tend to do their nails when they are supposed to be dishing out government services. Actually, civil servants follow a simple routine. They wake up in the morning, get ready for work and arrive late. Upon arrival at the office they remember that they did not eat breakfast. Resources are then pooled together and the messenger is sent to go buy some greasy grub, with fat cakes, chicken livers and tripe being the favourite. Whilst waiting for breakfast to arrive, our good civil servants get on the phone to trade the latest gossip. Having exhausted the chit chat, they go online to find out which overseas university they fancy for further schooling. In the meantime, we the taxpayers would be waiting outside with no one to help us.

For those who try to get assistance through the phone, tough luck. Either the switchboard rings unanswered or when somebody bothers to pick up, they are so angry you end up regretting why you called. By way of service, they tell you the officer who can assist you has gone to a workshop or is in a meeting. You proceed to ask if there is a deputy. What normally follows is a curt response to the effect that they too are not in the office. At this point, you want to apologise for having called.

But before you can collect your thoughts, the receiver is slammed down and you are left hapless and speechless. To be fair, after breakfast they put in about an hour of work, mainly paper shuffling and dreaming up ingenious ways of rejecting perfectly sound applications. When you think the civil service is now settled and working, they suddenly remember its tea time.

More money is pooled together and another low ranking worker is sent out to go and bring more food. For the fun of it, when the bosses are thoroughly bored, they may decide to convene a disciplinary hearing to sack some unfortunate soul. The civil service is big on meetings and hearings. Anyway, at this point, in mid morning, the civilised part of the world has woken up, and the government phones work non stop chatting to relatives and friends overseas. If you have the misfortune of asking for help in the middle of the lengthy conversations, you are simply told to return the following day. No amount of protestation will help. If you tell them you are from the village and cannot afford to come back the following day, they tell you there is not much they can do. That is how the government works, will be the reminder.
After more phones chatting and playing on the computer, they realise that it is about lunchtime. Without even bothering to switch the computers off, everyone makes a beeline to their favourite food stall in the street.

Over a game of cards and draughts they proceed to complain about how tired they are. Who wouldn’t be tired from the non stop eating and gossiping?
Lunch over, they amble reluctantly to their offices and check whether they are not due for some overseas trip. The serial travellers compare notes and boast to each other how they are on their third passport.

If there is nothing overseas, a local trip is hastily put together. In order to do that, they have to find some information about a particular project. But because their fellow civil servants won’t answer the phone that means driving to an office in another part of town. In the parking lot will be waiting a luxurious government vehicle, complete with a driver.

Equally tired from eating and playing cards, the driver would be enjoying a nice nap with the engine running and the air conditioning humming along nicely. On the state of the art sound system would be playing a collection of his gospel music. Off he would drive his boss to the other side of town. Before they arrive, there will be many stopovers for personal business. When finally they arrive at their destination, the boss would realise he brought the wrong file. With no choice but to retrace their steps they arrive back at the office and thankfully note that it is time to knock off.

Off they would go. The men to the pubs and the ladies to watch the television soapies. Month end comes and everyone has a good time before we move onto the next month. This is a life of bliss. Now, with the recently announced scarce skills allowance some privileged sections of the civil service will be getting huge increments. There is going to be so much eating in those offices it won’t be funny. My only regret is that I never joined the civil service.

No job in the world beats working for the government. In fact, with the scarce skills allowance, I am thinking of quitting my job in favour of the civil service. I would advise anyone who is really tired from working hard for a living to contemplate a nice life of getting paid to do little. Opportunities don’t come better than the civil service!


Read this week's paper

ACHAP denies donor taps have run dry

The African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (ACHAP) has denied it faces an uncertain future amid allegations that donor taps have run dry.