Thursday, June 20, 2024

The resetting and reclaiming story is an old story: nothing significant is expected

Listening to the President explaining his priorities on his reset and reclaim roadmap in Setswana the other day, it appeared he was telling Batswana and the world that the country’s political and socio-economic engine had suddenly stopped and therefore urgently required to be jump-started. The said engine had overtime demonstrated obvious tell-tale signs that it was misfiring yet no preventative maintenance was performed to ensure that it does not further misfire to avoid complete and costly breakdown. The issues as raised by the President are historical and have been with us for as long one can remember. They have been raised in so many fora like the State of the Nation Addresses, the National Assembly with institutions like the National Strategy Office (NSO), the Botswana Public Service College, Botswana National Productivity Centre (BNPC) and others established in some way to address these priorities. Yet, Botswana is still grappling without much success in realising optimum results from these institutions.

At this point in time, Botswana should not be suffering from productivity issues, moral and ethical conduct across the public and parastatal sectors because BNPC would have produced world class graduates from whom the values of serving the nation would be learnt. It either this centre produced downright hopeless graduates or, the graduates are competent but misplaced in the public and parastatal sectors. Somewhere along the value chain, something horrible occurred with no one ensuring that it is corrected timeously to avoid recurrence. And disappointingly, there has always been that someone who was paid by taxpayers’ money to ensure and correct any emerging anomaly along the said value chain. It should therefore not be a case of newly emerging problems or concerns that require resetting and reclaiming. At this stage, we should be fine tuning our priorities as they have long been pronounced. The foundations or groundwork have already been laid.

BW government tells us that ‘The National Strategy Office (NSO) is mandated to coordinate the development and implementation of national strategies through research, monitoring and evaluation of sectoral strategies. It started operating in 2010 as an action item of the Botswana Excellence Strategy and operates under the Office of the President. The goal of NSO is to facilitate the growth of a vibrant economy through the provision of strategic guidance in the conception and implementation of Government policies, programs and initiatives…. ’

Reading through the NSO document, it appears it interfaces with the whole government machinery in terms of facilitating ‘the growth of a vibrant economy….’ Having been established twenty one years ago and before the advent of Covid-19 pandemic which has become the scapegoat for government failures and with its location at the Office of the President where one would expect it to be sufficiently resourced in order to achieve its mandate, are we honestly seeing its meaningful impact on the socio-economic circumstances of Batswana and if not so, why? There could be many reasons. One is possibly that NSO itself is run by people who are incapacitated in more ways than one to understand and appreciate its key mandate where monitoring and implementation of the mandate is paramount. The other could be that the political leadership is failing to ensure that NSO mandate succeeds in terms of providing such leadership. One or all of the above could possibly be true. At the end of the day, the NSO looks like a good structure under the Office of the President on paper and not in practice because the results are not forthcoming. Better service delivery to Batswana is hamstrung by serious lack of monitoring and implementation of programs conceptualised under the NSO mandate. If a structure under the Office of the President whose key mandate as stated above is failing to see light of day, the question should arise: what has the political leadership been doing in the last ten years when it was clear that NSO is failing to implement its mandate probably not out of its own making?

The President is talking about reforming the civil service such that it aligns with his ‘roadmap.’ Fair enough! Like some would say, the devil is in the detail. My expectation in this regard would be that appointments thereto would be based on meritocracy more than anything else. But given the fact that his party has agreed to appoint its cadres to the civil service like we have seen in land boards amongst others, would he rescind this decision as an effort to reform the civil service? Not by any stretch of the imagination. I have previously demonstrated the deleterious consequences of politicising the civil service whose fruits we are currently harvesting in the form of bad corporate governance; people not held accountable because they are solidly protected by the powers that be and the decay in moral and ethical conduct. This bad behaviour is one of the government’s Achilles heel which up to this point, does not seem to be decisively dealt with. Government is flip flopping over the question of civil servants’ businesses doing business with her. This has to be stopped given the same deleterious consequences of potential corruption, abuse of office and conflict of interest borne out of such business relationships between the two parties. It is important to mention that politicisation of the civil service together with civil servants doing business with government have been topical issues afflicting the service for a long time and therefore rendering it unprofessional in large measure. Reforming the civil service with these topical issues still in place does not augur well for the resetting and reclaiming agenda.

There is no evidence that meaningful reforms will be instituted in state institutions like the DCEC in terms of security of tenure of its Director General and rendering it autonomous in the true definition of the word amongst others. The Director General of the DIS also requires security of tenure and to be moved away from the President’s influence and possible manipulation. As it stands, the DCEC and DIS heads are viewed as beholden to the President because of the current legal frameworks. This view is always vehemently denied even though the existing legal frameworks make it conducive for such to exist.

For the President’s resetting and reclaiming roadmap to be anything to write home about, he will have to dig deep more than what he has pronounced. While he has not provided finer strategy details with respect to the resetting and reclaiming roadmap, his body language this far since assuming the position of Head of State does not instil the confidence one would expect. He has been heavily criticised and justifiably so, for saying a lot but doing very little. While the jury is still out there, I am afraid I do not expect anything next to the extraordinary apart from the usual political rhetoric I have become accustomed to. I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise as always. Judge for Yourself!

Covid-19 is still our immediate threat as I have always said. Kindly protect yourself by protecting the next person. Religiously wear your mask properly, frequently wash your hands with soap or sanitise where possible and social distance. It is neither difficult nor hard to do so.

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