Source: Culture change critical in the civil service | The Herald 30 AUG, 2019
Beaven Dhliwayo Features Writer
It is now striking that the Second Republic is clear that our civil service needs an urgent dose of culture change.
Under the new dispensation, Zimbabwe has moved and changed with speed from being a society characterised by a subdued and inward-looking economy, deep political polarisation, and an underperforming system of public administration and management.
Anyone who has been involved in culture change in organisations knows that it is all about those who lead the organisation demonstrating the culture they want their staff to adopt.
It is blindingly obvious that a major dose of culture change is required by the civil service and the real debate now is about how much of a change in leadership must happen so that they have the credibility to initiate this culture change.
Leaders should be exemplary and motivate their subordinates to build a culture of servant leadership and professionalism.
Recently, President Mnangagwa launched the 2019-20 Public Service Strategic Plan aimed at reforming the public service and improving productivity, accountability, remuneration and pension reforms among other changes.
The theme of the new plan is “A New Public Service for a New Economy”.
The strategic plan is designed to facilitate the establishment and management of a devolved system of public administration that effectively leads and propels Zimbabwe to greater heights of sustainable and inclusive social and economic growth and prosperity for all citizens.
Addressing delegates who attended the launch of the strategic plan, President Mnangagwa said: “I challenge civil servants to be responsible and good at listening, thinking and executing their tasks and roles with efficiency. I equally challenge civil servants to constantly re-mould their commitment to serve people.”
He added: “Foundations are the key to organisational strategic positioning. I am, therefore, pleased that the Commission’s Strategic Plan is anchored on foundational values, without which any organisation would be shaky.
“The emphasis on all-encompassing culture change that spans the full range from ethics to efficiency, is commendable, for we cannot have one without the other.” .
The President also urged public officials to shun all forms of corruption.
Over the years, the civil service has been heavily bloated with unskilled personnel in key departments.
It is believed that the service is infiltrated by many ghost workers, further derailing the Government’s aim to pay decent salaries and attract skilled professionals to enhance productivity.
A ghost worker is someone who is not supposed to be in a particular space or performing a particular function.
Few years ago, a staff audit exposed former president Robert Mugabe’s administration of employing over 70 000 youth officers outside the remit of the Public Service Commission (PSC).
As the PSC drives its vision of an “empowered and public service leading and propelling sustainable and inclusive socio-economic growth and prosperity for all citizens of Zimbabwe,” it should get rid of all ghost workers in the public service.
This culture of employing “ghost workers” should be put to an end once and for all as they are weighing down on the Government’s salary budget.
With multilateral institutions demanding a rationalisation of the civil service as a precondition for financial and technical support, Government should commit to slashing recurrent expenditure by reducing the size of the workforce.
This is achievable by eliminating ghost workers in the PSC.
The country needs to bank on biometric technology to manage the rising wage bill and get rid of ghost workers.
Ghost workers made the wage bill unsustainable leading the Treasury to struggle to pay genuine civil servants and pensioners.
Government’s workforce is also top-heavy.
Going forward, the PSC should right-size the civil service, making sure that the right persons are performing the right jobs given the skills sets that they have.
It should be a combination of right-sizing, right-skilling and right-tooling.
The culture of corruption should also be dealt with among the civil service. Whilst the literature on corruption in the country tends to focus on grand corruption for contracts and licences worth large sums of money, citizens are paying petty bribes to get public services.
In developing countries, such bribes reduce the effectiveness of donor aid intended to reduce poverty.
Actions like replacing corrupt officials with computers, promoting more open Government, and offering citizens a choice between institutions delivering a service can help reduce bribery in service delivery.
Citizens are most often in contact with Government when they seek public services such as health, education, and police and if public employees are corrupt, people may need to pay petty bribes to get these services.
Public services such as education and health care give people skills to be productive and enable them to work effectively.
Additionally, the protection of individuals and their property requires effective and honest courts and police.
Having to pay bribes for these services violates the rule of law. Although the sums involved may be petty, they stimulate public distrust in Government and reduce the quality of governance.
President Mnangagwa recently warned public officials, saying they should be mindful of the immense responsibility they have towards national development in general and the improvement of the quality life of the people, in particular.
“They (public officials) must endeavour to always separate public and personal interest and to put the concerns of our people above their personal benefits. Let us remain clean, prudent, honest and upright in our conduct and the exercise of power at our various levels,” said President Mnangagwa.
Nurses, teachers or local government employees deliver services such as medical care and primary education, whilst living in the same communities as the people who use the services, hence they should behave in a more humane manner.
It is worrying to have such corrupt elements in the service, for instance, having a police force that decides whether to arrest a person for driving recklessly or to take a bribe.
The new culture must inculcate a set of values and ethics that promote servant leadership and embedded patriotism, as well as high-performance habits and practices in the entire civil service.
Thus it is imperative for the PSC to spearhead the development and integration of new culture blueprint in the civil service.
Moreover, the PSC should manage and clear a pervasive perception that the civil service does not have a well-defined shared and inspirational culture.
The PSC, under the strategic plan, must ensure an actionable and measurable programme that fully acquaints all staff with the key elements of the national ethos and interests, clearly defines and enforces ethical conduct, imbues a high sense of patriotism, sets out clear performance requirements and consequences for all staff.
Subsequently, this will develop and promote an operational and behavioural culture in the civil service that delivers adequate and responsive services efficiently, cost-effectively and equitably at high levels of professionalism, ethical conduct, accountability and performance.
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