Pressure to Reform Public Service Commission

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By Wezi Tjaronda SWAKOPMUND High-ranking government officials are meeting at Swakopmund to discuss ways in which the Public Service Commission (PSC) can be redefined for it to be effective in delivering services to the public. Due to a shift that is occurring in government institutions, the government implementing agencies are also being forced to move towards performance-based systems whereby employees are results-driven. The same goes for the PSC, which Prime Minister Nahas Angula says should be redefined to enable the country to retain its competitive edge in the regional and global context. In countries where the public service has been reformed over the past two decades, results have been manifest in strengthened investment sectors, resulting in economic growth. Angula was speaking yesterday when he opened the Strategic Planning and Consultative Workshop of the Namibian Public Service Commission here at the coastal town. The workshop is assessing the achievements of the PSC, its performance and also what its future role should be. The PSC needs reforming because of its duplicating operations, which Angula said would cause confusion, conflict and lack of accountability if left unattended. Although the PSC is mandated by the Namibian Constitution to assume full responsibility over personnel administration, its present role lies in giving advice and recommendations for approval by the Prime Minister. This, according to the chairperson of the PSC, Ambassador Eddie Amkongo, limits the scope of and amounts to a duplication of the mandate, and dissipation of resources. “If decisions of the Commission first have to be sanctioned by the Prime Minister (Executive) who has to hire and fire public servants, then the Commission has got no space to exercise disciplinary control,” said Amkongo. Some of the challenges facing the PSC include conflicting interpretations of acts that hamper or slow its effectiveness, lack of motivational awards to performing public servants, service delivery and implementation, and rolling out of training and professional deployment. As a result, Amkongo said, necessary amendments to the Public Service Act through parliament will place the Commission where it belongs as an oversight body that can enforce compliance by offices, ministries and agencies. The PSC is supposed to act independently and impartially, but resorts under the office of the prime minister with no independent secretariat and own budget vote, while other statutory bodies such as the National Assembly and National Council, Auditor general, Namibian Intelligence Service, and even newly established bodies such as the Electoral Commission and Anti-Corruption Commission are standing on their own with their own structures. The PSC advises the president and government on suitable persons to specified categories of employment in the public sector and exercises disciplinary control over persons in order to ensure fair administration of personnel policy, remuneration and retirement benefits. It also makes recommendations on directives, practices and systems to give effect to both personnel and non-personnel administration, appointment of the Auditor General, the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, high-ranking officials such as permanent secretaries, disciplinary matters in cases of misconduct, appeals and grievances, the implementation of the Affirmative Action Act and the rules of the Government Institutions Pensions Fund. Although the Namibian Constitution expects the PSC to advise the president and ensure the fair application of personnel policy, the law does not describe how the advice should be provided. Another grey area is the role of the secretary to cabinet as the head of the civil service, which the prime minister said is not properly spelt out in the constitution. The three-day workshop is also being attended by three public service commissioners – of Jamaica, South Africa and Botswana – who will present their countries’ case studies relating to challenges, reform experiences and the roles of the PSCs.