The secretaries of our political and administrative heads have a huge responsibility on their shoulders. They can make or break communication between the public and their superiors or their offices and are a vital link in terms of service delivery. Needless to say that public officials are accountable to the public and must be accessible at all times. Secretaries should ensure the accountability of the offices of their superiors by making sure that queries and other requests are promptly attended to. The role played by secretaries may look inconsequential on paper or at face value but imagine an office without a secretary. Secretaries are to their superiors what soldiers are to generals. Effective governance demands that there is constant communication between those who are governed and those governing them. And this is where secretaries play a critical role as facilitators of communication between public offices and members of the public. But more often than not, some secretaries tend to hinder such communication. Some of the secretaries are not helpful in so far as accessing of public offices is concerned. They are a problem rather than a solution. It is not uncommon for secretaries to tell untruths about the whereabouts of their bosses. The same goes for those who want to set up appointments. The common answer that one gets when inquiring about an official is that he or she is in a meeting when in actual fact the person is somewhere else. And some secretaries do so knowing fully well that the person that is being sought is not in a meeting. Similarly, requests for appointments are at times ignored. In other instances, those who seek appointments get thrown from corner to pillar by secretaries who feel the boss should not be bothered and is better left alone to while away time. Another sore point is, some of the secretaries will not give you the mobile telephone number of an official even when the inquiry is urgent despite the fact that the mobile phone is not private property but was bought with public money for official use. Some secretaries insist they are not allowed to give mobile phone numbers of ministers, their deputies, directors and so on. Worse still, when reporters or members of the public leave numbers for the officials to call back, nothing gets done. This equals unrendered service. True, secretaries have a duty towards their superiors. They have to run their official and sometimes private lives. Secretaries at times have to protect the dignity of office and those occupying them by remaining loyal. But being loyal and serving ones boss is not synonymous to abdication of one’s responsibility towards the public and playing blind to office rules. Loyalty should never be confused with doing what is not right. Secretaries have to find best practices and deal with those who demand to be served by their offices in the absence of their truant superiors. Some secretaries tend to over shield their superiors to a point of rendering them ineffective. They make them absent from work even when they are physically in the offices. Perhaps this conduct would be better understood if the superior is incapacitated by other factors. Otherwise, why cover up for a boss when he or she is supposed to be on duty and serving the public. Secretaries must remember that they are first and foremost employed by the public – the taxpayer. The office boss is simply a supervisor and not an employer. The ideal secretary is one who distinguishes between the superior and the office, one who understands that the office is more superior than the superior.
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