Wanted: An Open Public Service

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK The Prime Minister Nahas Angula strongly feels there is a need for a more responsive Public Service in 2006 that is in line with the public’s interest. As part of the country’s largest business unit with 70 000 employees in the public sector, it is imperative that civil servants particularly those working in public institutions are responsive to the needs of the public at large. Addressing staff members of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) recently, the Premier noted that the key fundamental ingredient in moulding a responsive public service is “principled leadership, professionalism and impartiality”. “A responsive Public Service aligns behaviour of its staff with the public interest…. In service delivery, a responsive Public Service is competent, efficient and accountable,” he explained. This sentiment falls in line with what President Hifikepunye Pohamba said at the First Cabinet meeting where he made a clarion call for commitment and hard work in 2006. In an exclusive interview with New Era on the day he started business last week Monday, the Premier expressed disappointment with the slow progress made in creating an efficient and effective public service sector last year. “More needs to be done in changing the general “unproductive routine” of last year to being a more “productive one”, he stated. “It’s full plate this year where we will look at several policies and programmes. I am not happy with last year’s progress in the public sector because while some people work, others don’t,” said the Premier. He called for a performance-oriented public service where the values of honesty, commitment and quality leadership take top priority. “Just imagine for a moment that our teachers, our law enforcement personnel, our national defence personnel, our prison service personnel, customs officials, etc. are not performing. Life will surely come to standstill,” he said. The public sector plays a critical role in the operations of the country and competency is a must for staff members who provide this public service. Professional public servants are therefore the lifeblood of such institutions and should be guided by quality and principled leadership. Ultimately, this would mean that the public sector would be seen as an agent of change and transformation in addressing the socio-economic challenges, he said. “Our public institutions should take the lead in the process of socio-economic transformation,” said Angula, adding that all this boils down to an enhanced and responsive public service with strategic goals. Plans are underway to introduce a “Performance Management Appraisal System” this year, where public companies would be held accountable. Such a yearly performance management work plan will consist of a set of objectives, implementation strategy, resources, monitoring procedures as well as feedback. Other plans envisaged for this year by the OPM are to revisit the Black Economic Empowerment Policy, establish a National Institute of Management and Administration and make into law the Public Enterprises Act, which is only waiting for the final signature of President Hifikepunye Pohamba later this year.