Civil service  clean-up

THE need for an effective, efficient and professional civil service to enable Government deliver on its social and economic development plans cannot be over-emphasised. A philosopher, Henry Clay, defines government as a trust and the officers of the government as trustees, adding that both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people. In this vein, governments world over strive to enhance the well-being of its citizens by meeting their physical, security and social needs such as food, shelter and essential services like water, proper sanitation, medical care and education. It goes without saying that for these needs to be met, those entrusted with the responsibilities (civil servants) have an enormous task to perform. What has Government done to improve the performance of the civil service? What should be the criteria for making the civil service effective? It is a well-known fact that professionalism in our public service has been undermined due to excessive politicisation, poor management practices, corruption and political patronage. As a result, this has contributed to the failure to improve quality service delivery, efficiency and cost effectiveness. In the current state of the civil service, many civil servants are highly compromised and this poses a danger to the smooth running of government.  This can be noted from the manner in which some secret and classified government documents have been leaked to some media houses and members of the public. How can one explain the lackadaisical attitude that is endemic in many of our public institutions? If public officers were equal to the task, why should it take months for the mere signing of a document, let alone responding to requests for information by members of the public? The corruption perpetrated in most State corporations and offices is quite inhibitive to the development efforts that Government had forecast. In some cases, civil servants appear to have formed cartels aimed at frustrating Government efforts on account of advancing their narrow political interests.  It must be noted that the achievements that European governments made in social and economic development came only after they successfully got rid of unprofessionalism, corruption and inefficiency from public institutions. We think that there is urgent need for President Lungu and his Cabinet to clean up the civil service if at all what he spelt out in his State of the Nation address to Parliament is to come to fruition. It is a good thing that permanent secretaries are now on performance-based contracts.  By virtue of the nature of the work of civil servants, their primary objective is to serve the government of the day, hence must be law-abiding so that they offer their services diligently. Are our civil servants loyal and law-abiding in their execution of duty? We do not think the majority of civil servants are doing their work diligently. If it were so, service delivery to the people would have been timely. We think that the President should give serious consideration to introducing the performance-based contracts to heads and directors of Government departments in each ministry and subsequently the entire civil service if his administration is to score on its set social and economic targets. The sooner the Government puts in place measures aimed at strengthening the civil service, the better because that will build public confidence and enable timely achievement of set development goals.