“The goal is to improve service delivery …” – PM
By Petronella Sibeene
Prime Minister Nahas Angula has said the reshuffling of permanent secretaries at the various ministries was necessitated by government’s grave concern over poor service delivery at most ministries.
But the move should not be seen as an attack on all those redeployed as some of them lived up to expectations, he said.
“Redeployment was necessitated by the fact that we want permanent secretaries to look at challenges of service delivery afresh. When you are in the same environment for a long time, you stop seeing challenges,” he said in an interview with New Era.
He felt in their new posts the permanent secretaries would look at issues with a new perspective.
“It is not about passing judgment on individuals, but rather it is a way of creating a new look about how we are doing business,” said the premier.
Recent weeks have witnessed a public outcry on a number of issues with the latest being in the health sector. According to Angula, government wants sectors to come up with strategic plans that would anticipate problems before they became unmanageable.
“We want government departments to have strategic plans guided by Vision 2030 and the National Development Plan III. Each sector should be able to implement its strategies within the defined time frame,” said the premier.
On Monday, Angula announced the redeployment of permanent secretaries in the Ministry of Justice and Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, the Ministry of Health and Social Services, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Secretariat.
Ministries that were not affected Angula said, was not about them being good performers or not, but because the entire government could not be shaken up at the same time.
“We cannot shake up government at one goal. People have to acclimatise themselves and if you shake government at once, you can easily create paralysis in the public service,” he said. He could not say whether Monday’s development was a harbinger of things to come.
Political analysts have argued that government’s decision to redeploy permanent secretaries was a cover-up for poor performers. The prime minister refuted this, saying permanent secretaries are civil servants on contracts and those found to be non-performers could be fired or would not have their contracts renewed.
While the prime minister acknowledged that the redeployment was not necessarily based on performance judgment, he said in future government would look at performance appraisals.
“Permanent secretaries will be subjected to performance indicators, which will serve as a yardstick to determine if the levels of output of services agreed upon have been delivered, whether deadlines have been met, and whether the expected levels of output have been reached,” the Prime Minister added.
He said government would soon put formal monitoring mechanisms in place to measure the performance of permanent secretaries.
“The goal is to improve service delivery although goals and the outcome do not usually match. We hope this time things will work,” he said.
Angula also said that the redeployment was not taken to bring to an end alleged squabbles in some ministries involving the permanent secretaries and their ministers. He said he was not aware of any instance where a minister and a principal officer had no working relations.
However, the premier said there were incidents where laws were not well defined. He clarified that ministers were political appointees that dealt with policies whereas permanent secretaries were civil servants whose responsibility was to ensure that policies were translated into programmes.
“But sometimes, the line is blurred especially if ministers do not read the constitution,” he said.
He added that a minister through Cabinet deals with governance issues while a permanent secretary deals more with management and administration.
Unlike ministers that are vulnerable, Angula said, permanent secretaries work on a five-year tenure.
He told New Era that on a regular basis, he engages ministers with their permanent secretaries in meetings to refocus them on their distinct roles.
He added there have been a few cases where staff members wrote to the Office of the Prime Minister seeking solutions to problems in their ministry.
“You find that sometimes that particular minister is not aware of the problem. You expect these things everywhere,” he said.