Source: Convenient fiduciary confusion | The Financial Gazette June 23, 2016
THE majority of government ministers and other public officers in Zimbabwe seem to court controversy in handling their mandates.
From capitation in health, stolen diamonds and lost diamond money in mines, war proposal for not supporting the National Pledge, right through to careless tender awards amid accusations and counter accusations in energy. This is not entirely new in a country where scandals span way back to the immediate post-independence era.
The question is: “Are public officers confused as to what is expected of them, or it is mere convenience to satiate selfish motives?”
When a person is appointed to hold a public office, a solemn swearing in ceremony takes place. The ceremony is typically characterised by a recital of a generic pre-written oath to serve and God is amiably requested to help the newly appointed office bearer.
My take is that this task is an arduous responsibility that requires a deep desire to serve.
It has to be premised on a sincere drive to labour for the betterment of the public and other stakeholders.
This calls for selfless commitment so profound one has to call on God to help in this humanly insurmountable quest.
Elementary governance studies labour to impress the fiduciary responsibility imposed and assumed by a public officer.
In the context of the government, these are our honourable and not so honourable ministers.
A fiduciary duty may be defined simply as a legal and/or ethical duty to act in the best interest of the other party, a burden ministers accept by repeating seemingly empty words recited in an oath, they may perhaps do not hold in due regard, or an oath they never even understand given they just say after someone or read from a piece of paper.
One may be forgiven for supposing the void of meaning of the oath to the crop of public officers we currently have. If the recent past has been anything to go by, we have had just too many saddening episodes of the abuse and insult to the pledge to serve the people of Zimbabwe.
For a government full of busy bodies and a barely existing economic environment, it could be only fair to expect a positive out turn of governance efforts.
Such efforts should definitely not manifest in further fiscal pressure, or even closure of the remnants of what used to be sound industry and commerce. It should not be apparent careless awarding of tenders, the potential result of which will only further deprive the constricted public.
The efforts should not be so much in further frustrating the few and willing citizens who wake up to try and make ends meet in man-made difficult times through innumerable road movement restrictions and other such superfluously draining and ill-timed initiatives. Economic crises such as currency cash shortages, is surely not one indication of a good exertion of a fiduciary duty.
If not for the fellow “human principal”, why not, at least, be a fiduciary for God, or whatever you hold sacred? It may be a simple routine for public officers that every time they sit to commit and transact business, to have a simple one line checklist as a reference in executing their fiduciary duties: “Is the welfare of my principal, who happens to be the public (definitely not otherwise) going to be improved by this act or actions?”
This important checklist can be repeated at every turn; when deciding the next trip, when signing the next treaty or agreement, when authorising the next payment, when accepting due (or otherwise) rewards from a “deal” and when demanding the allowances for holding such office and definitely when making public declarations on policy matters, particularly those with a financial and economic bearing.
I am sure if the invisible guide in execution of such public offices remains the public, due care becomes the order of the day and better returns may be enjoyed by many people, directly or indirectly. The public can rest assured their concerns are in good hands and no one will require to be reminded to be a good general or corporate citizen.
Apparently, major public offices in Zimbabwe today, leave a lot to be desired. There is always a matter or two that deny the principals well-wished sleep. What is worse, such latent disregard to the fiduciary duty has often turned in tremendous immediate undeserved benefits to the fiduciary and extended and repeat appointments.
With proper fiduciary mindset, public officers can be better stewards of national resources, not making news headlines for all the wrong reasons.
How I wish more media space could be devoted to better business use that would bring back faded smiles on the faces of principals.
The fiduciary may as well realise that, it remains permissible and possible to surrender the realms should it became apparent they are unable, for one reason or the other, to withstand the burden of “minding” the business of the public.
Kapeza Kapeza is a senior business consultant at Franlink Consultants, a registered public accounting and auditing firm. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com