TOMORROW marks Africa Public Workers Day. In Namibia, the day will be commemorated at Gobabis, in the Omaheke Region. Public servants will be celebrating their successes, while also being reminded of the unfinished business of serving the Namibian people with dedication, distinction and love.
Namibia’s public service has made significant strides in terms of providing quality services and care for its customers – the public.
Indeed, the formative years of the new public service were difficult. At independence we found ourselves saddled with a public service that had a ‘I don’t care’ attitude and was mediocre at best, stemming mainly from a colonial past which bred a culture of contempt, neglect and impunity based on race. It was never about the people for the public service at that time, but about the system that used public servants as a power base to oppress the people of Namibia.
Shoddy work and substandard service during the initial stages used to put the public service in the crosshairs of the public’s firing line with so many complaints about almost every government department or office.
That has however changed with a new public service whose outlook is to serve the people with honour and dedication. At least that is what many public servants are striving towards, as well as heeding the instructions of the political heads that include the Head of State. There has been transformation not only in the composition of the public service, which was previously headed by people from one race only, but its vision and mission have undergone a paradigm shift and now is dedicated to serving all the people of this country. A charter has been drawn up to provide a framework within which to operate, while a training school has also been built to provide skills to public servants.
Public servants are the first point of contact – the critical interface between the population and the government. They are the point through which the public accesses goods and services. This puts them in a critical position in terms of service delivery, but also good governance and the continued democratization of the country. Public servants play a pivotal role and that is why their performance or non-performance reflects positively or negatively on the government that employs them. When civil servants fail to live up to expectations, in terms of providing service to the public, government gets the blame and likewise it gets the nod when they do well.
Take the case of a story that we ran this week about a school in the Otjozondjupa region. The Waterberg Junior Secondary School near Okakarara that has children sleeping on bare floors in this chilly weather, not because there are no beds and mattresses at the school. The problem is that someone simply decided to lock away these items that were supplied to the school last year for no apparent reason. How on earth anyone would do this is mind-boggling.
This case and many others where civil servants fail the people constitute a serious breach of the contractual obligations entered into between the employer and employee. We are also reminded of a similar case some years ago when flood relief food rotted away in warehouses at Katima Mulilo, while people were going hungry. Another story doing the rounds is that in Khorixas, baby formula milk is being kept on shelves until the sell by date, instead of being distributed to needy children who are many in that area. We mention these few cases to highlight some of the problems that prevail in the civil service, where individuals neglect their duties and subject people to untold suffering while being paid for doing nothing.
The top brass of the public service must deal firmly with these spoilers who are tainting the good name of so many other civil servants who are doing their best to serve the people. It is encouraging to hear that at the Gobabis event, some ministries will be recognized for having improved greatly in providing services to the people. We also say well done to them and to the many civil servants who do so much for the people. Once again well done and keep it up!