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Public service reward needs proper management


“How can we expect a Somali minister who begs for his subsistence allowance from an NGO to take on the Shabaab or the Taliban?” wrote Abdul Ghelleh in an excellent article on NGOs in Africa.

Painona with Tapiwa Nyandoro

He pointed out that the DRC and Somalia are pseudo sovereign States run by NGOs who pull the strings managing the African countries’ so called governments. The CAR and Mali are other examples.

Recently, however, on a more positive note, the United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron and the Somali Federal President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud co-hosted an international conference which hopes to bolster “democracy” in the horn of Africa country after 22 years of strife.

Britain has pledged $15 million to fund the training of the Somali army and the judiciary. It is a good beginning, and hopefully Her Majesty’s government will take cognisance of the statement above by Abdul Ghelleh for a holistic approach to the rehabilitation of Somalia.

With the other sectors of the Somali economy possibly at their lowest, the public sector would have to drive the economy for a few years as the other sectors recover.
This calls for massive International help in grants and loans. And public services might need foreign manpower and experts for some time during the rehabilitation period.

An approach that works, but whose scale is intimidating, is how Germany managed its unification. It required huge resources, patience, love and hands on public administration. In hindsight it was an investment that has paid off.

At home, Information Communication Technology minister Nelson Chamisa, according to a recent NewsDay report, raised the ire of his audience when he sought to claim that Cabinet ministers survive on their paltry wages.

He should have called for long overdue changes in the remuneration of public servants and elected officials, in particular for the nation’s Executive, judiciary, senior civil servants, the army and police commissioned officers and the legislature, including local government institutions.

He should have castigated the basket loads of perquisites, both legal and not-
so-legal, moral and not-so-moral, from which senior government employees and elected officials are forced to draw some relief, such as non-payment of utility bills, jumping the queue for farming inputs, the travel and subsistence account, official vehicles and state residences that pass on to their allocated users for a peppercorn fee, if any, at the end of a stated period or term of office usually not exceeding five years, and tax exemptions such as duty payable on personal vehicles, which only the Head of State ought to enjoy, by virtue of his office.

At the opposite end are the embarrassing burdens of Kenyan and Italian legislators, as regards legislature size, extent of perquisites and bloated salaries. The world should not stand by and watch especially where bailouts and, or developmental aid is deemed a necessity.

Greed and profligacy must be censored. At some stage these ill gotten gains must be recovered if a country’s governance is to be corrected.

The current government of Zimbabwe’s remuneration structure at senior levels may have made sense during the hyper-inflationary era, but not now. It is time for a paradigm shift, though the Public Service Commission and the Executive seem overwhelmed.

But multi-lateral agencies, development partners, friendly countries, including China (which must cast away its presumed see and hear no evil approach), and the rest of the donor community must be prepared to provide leadership on the subject if necessary.

An opportunity to address the subject comprehensively at the constitution-
making level was missed. Instead, if anything, the outcome worsened the problem by further bloating the legislature in particular. Section 153 of the new Constitution leaves the nation at the mercy of self interested parliamentarians.

The West revealed that $2,6 billion was poured into Zimbabwe via NGO between 2008 and 2013. This money is indeed needed but its routing into the country should also assist the strengthening of institutions and their integrity.

And those with the capital must not be shy to negotiate, and if need be dictate terms. The world should not stand by whilst a criminalised political elite prey on the poor, in the face of failure to deliver public goods and services, including law and order, expected of a sovereign State. Such a robust and honest approach is constructive engagement. It puts the poor and defenseless first. It does not avoid “unpleasant” issues. It tackles them.

And one unpleasant issue is the quality of public governance, of which the Reward Management Programme and the related size of the Public Service should be on top of the agenda. The time to engage appropriately and constructively in this exercise of national building is now.

The European Union recently announced that it is engaged in discussions with the GNU on the strategic framework for the co-operation of the EU with Zimbabwe. The size and remuneration of key government sectors, including the entire public service should take centre stage.

The current practice that seeks to shy away from the nitty-gritty, whilst setting up what amounts to a parallel, uncoordinated government is not cohesive or very productive.

It does not foster confidence and capacity building in recipient countries and hence is not sustainable. It fails to strengthen key institutions. The holistic “Germany unification approach” is the way to go, not the current detached, parallel UNDP/WB/IMF one.

Send your feedback to nyandoro.osbert1@gmail.com or feedback@newsday.co.zw

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