Water Utilities Corporation Chief Executive Officer, Fred Maunge, last week took public servants head on and treated them to a public lecture on productivity.
At an official event hosted by the corporation at which Minister Ponatshego Kedikilwe, members of parliament and members of the business community were present, Maunge told embarrassed public servants that lack of project implementation within the government was, most of the time, not because of lack of capacity but because a lot of them fail to rise above bloated egos and personalization of issues.
It emerged at the commissioning of the Francistown water supply master plan review project that the delay in implementing the project was a result of the laxity of some government departments and their refusal to pull in tandem with other stakeholders during the planning and implementation stages. The delay in the commissioning of the project led to severe water shortages in Francistown and surrounding areas and WUC is not happy that while they were not to blame for the mess they ended up being rapped on the knuckles for the erratic water supply that ensued.
Francistown and surrounding areas, like Tonota, Tati Siding, Matsiloje, Matshelagebedi and Masunga, were last year hit by a crippling water shortage that resulted in erratic and, at times, non existent supply to these areas. At the ceremony, Maunge explained to all and sundry that the project was carried out through consultations with a number of stakeholders, among them the Ministry of Minerals Energy and Water Resources, Local Government, the Department of Water Affairs, the Department of Lands, the Department of Town and Regional Planning, Surveys and Mapping and the Francistown City, Central and North East District Councils, which met regularly as a reference group during the pre investment study.
Maunge said that the project could have been commissioned at least nine months earlier had there been no delays in the planning stages. It also emerged that while WUC had completed the designs and secured funding for the project, some government departments, especially those responsible for land servicing somehow failed to live up to the challenge. As a result, the project financiers, the European Investment Bank, Development Bank of Southern Africa and some local banks, refused to release funds for the project to commence as they were concerned that government did not appear to be committed to the development of Gerald Estates, especially the provision of serviced land in the area.
”It was thought at the time that the corporation was in danger of developing primary water supply infrastructure that could become a white elephant if Francistown and the surrounding villages did not develop as anticipated,” said Maunge.
He also added that it took the corporation almost a year to prod stakeholders within government to take action and initiate the necessary consultation process on land servicing.
“In fact, the consultations were only initiated after arm twisting from the highest political office,” he said.
In front of an embarrassed group of government officials, the irate CEO went on to castigate government officials for their laxity, saying that the severe water shortages experienced in Francistown and surrounding areas were a direct result of their unproductive nature and tendency to concentrate on petty issues.
“Shashe Dam was constantly full, and there could not have been an excuse for failing to supply people with water,” said Maunge.
He also said that even as the project is still commissioned today there were those within government who still feel that the project was unnecessary.
The WUC CEO then went on to give the public servants a lecture on productivity and work ethics saying that ”the lessons learned in this project should be an eye opener to all the technocrats.”
He told them that all public servants should produce plans and advice government on resource requirements on time and that can only be achieved if all concerned stakeholders understand and appreciate the urgency and importance of the projects they look after.
”We cannot continue to live under the misguided theory that lack of implementation of important projects is due to shortage of resources when we know that there are countries with much fewer resources than ours which have successfully implemented similar projects. In my view, lack of implementation of important projects most of the time has to do with that we place emphasis on personal differences and spend a long time discrediting each other’s initiatives,” said Maunge as the public servants cringed in embarrassment.