Public Service – We Deserve the Best

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For some time now, there has been talk of availing quality service to the public by both government and the private sector. But what we are seeing leaves much to be desired because we are constantly subjected to mediocrity when we should be accorded the best and nothing else. The work ethics of certain officials border on the criminal as they are perpetually on leave or attending one meaningless workshop after another. When by chance they are available, they are simply locked up in one “meeting” or another, severely disrupting workflow and service to the public who pay their salaries and perks. President Hifikepunye Pohamba has gone an extra mile to tell public employees that they are servants of the people but this unfortunately continues falling on deaf ears. The culprits, obviously with misguided perceptions, think they are entitled to these jobs. The government has done its part to ensure that public servants subscribe to certain ethical standards in the service of the people by way of a Public Charter, including holding workshops and induction courses intended to improve public service delivery. However, members of the public have somewhat failed to match these efforts with their own. Instead, a significant number of people continue to toil under the elusion that public servants who go out of their way to help them are doing them a favour. Those that fail to help them are not called to account for their actions. Put differently, members of the public do not demand good and prompt service from those with bossy attitudes who are supposed to serve them. They do not protest against poor service from those who get paid their tax money to provide such service. And if they do, it is through the public broadcaster’s airwaves, or newspaper pages, a process that makes communication cumbersome and ineffective. It is very rare that members of the public lodge complaints directly with the institutions concerned and demand to see the superiors of those who deny them proper service, including Permanent Secretaries, Ministers, their Deputies or the President if need be. After all, the president himself has said he is a servant of the people and is there to serve them. The other avenue that the public do not use to lodge their complaints is their political representatives in Parliament, who should take up issues from their constituencies with their ministerial counterparts. Members of the public could also write letters to the relevant ministries or departmental heads to demand good service. Instead, it would appear many people have been cowed into submission. Some end up paying bribes to civil servants in order to get served while others simply give up. Stories are rife about members of the public who give favours or pay civil servants for services rendered. They pay for quick service or to jump the queue for quick service. Some civil servants are said to be notorious for demanding kickbacks for service rendered. It boggles the mind that civil servants can demand favours outside the law and get away with it, while the public who are entitled to good service do not demand such service as a matter of a right. Those who are engaged in the fight against corruption should take this issue seriously. The public need to be educated about their rights. They need to understand that they are entitled to good service and that it is incumbent upon them to demand such service free of charge instead of giving extra dollars for it. They should be made to understand that if necessary, they can demand to see the superiors of those who serve them, including Permanent Secretaries and Ministers. Giving money under the table is counter-productive and corrupts civil servants even more. Members of the public who pay for so-called favours are as guilty as the recipients thereof. The absence of a strong lobby or organisation, one of a consumer type, has also not helped matters. But it is up to members of the public to initiate and to activate such an organisation that would solely deal with consumer and other issues related to service delivery. Namibians, whether applying for a bank loan or a raft of national documents, deserve the best and nothing less.