We need continuity in the civil service

The National Assembly is one of the most critical oversight institutions in our democracy and it continues to come up with initiatives to enhance transparency and accountability. Select committees have been established and their proceedings are held in public, something that we should all celebrate.

However, despite these efforts and others at Government Enclave to improve productivity, we still have incidents where officers seem to know very little about what is going on in their ministries or departments. They are unable to supervise projects in which government has spent millions of taxpayer’s money to improve the lives of Batswana.

We still have shortage of drugs in government health facilities; incomplete construction projects; unpaid student allowances, and others, as a result of officers who care little about their work. Botswana’s work ethic has been ranked lowest in the world and there is no sign that we will improve in the near future. We ought to change our mindset and respect our customers and put them before everything if we are to succeed in project implementation and service delivery. It is also the responsibility of those in positions of authority to facilitate this by coming up with policies that will retain continuity.

The indiscriminate and unplanned redeployment of civil servants such as permanent secretaries and directors is one of the reasons there is poor service delivery in our beloved country. One example is the Ministry of Transport and Communications, which has had seven ministers and countless permanent secretaries since it was established in 2009. Whilst staff redeployment is an international practice that serves to curb potential incidents of corruption, in Botswana this practice seems to work against our aspirations because it brings negative results.

There is less continuity and projects and service delivery are suffering. Every time accounting officers appear before oversight institutions, they have very little information on what is going on in their ministries because they have just been transferred to such.

The same applies in our courts of law where there are instances of investigating officers, or prosecutors struggling to understand the cases they are handling because the initial officer had been transferred.

Re-deployments also impact on supervision of multi-billion projects where officers are often in the dark about the history of such projects. This is for the reason that whilst there may be documentation, some issues are resolved verbally in official and casual meetings.

We urge the authorities to give officers some time to settle, start and monitor projects to their completion. If there are suspicions of corruption, the authorities should engage other institutions such as Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, as well as the police, Criminal Investigation Department and others. Transfer of officers is doing us a disservice and it is the poor people who feel the effects of poor non-delivery of projects, which impacts on services delivery.


Today’s thought 

The ability to change constantly and effectively is made easier by high-level continuity 

– Michael Porter

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