Guardians of the Terrain

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Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

Competencies or incompetencies aside for now, there is a common thread running through the reshufflement of the lords of our administrative machinery.

Few, if not all of those who have been shifted, can lay claim to any expertise in the ministries to which they have been re-assigned.

That underlines my understanding as a student of public administration and a latent and passive public administrator that chief administrators need not necessarily be experts in the areas of their administrative jurisdiction, but generalists. This is not to say expertise may not be a plus somehow.

But it is expected of them to have an eclectic background in disciplines and foremost to be women and men with a sound basis of administration and management, if not leaders in the latter two disciplines, or in the least to be of men and women of reasonable administrative judgment. Not to speak of being strict financial disciplinarians.

If they posses all of the above, or some of it, then we can expect some reasonable harmonisation of humans and matter, which is what administration or management is all about.

This is the brief, or so to speak the main brief, of the Permanent Secretaries. That is depending on your understanding and philosophy of public administration, and of course the practice of the administrative machinery in the Land of the Brave as it has come to be the 17 years or so of our Statehood.

This is despite the bombshell suggested by certain commentators with the reshuffle.

I fail to see what the bombshell is? It was only natural, or should I say administratively sound, to re-assign some of the personas in these ministries given the personal nature of the challenges that have rendered the administrative cogs of some of these ministries rusty and inoperative.

And there is nothing wrong with having started with the PS’s. Thus from that point of view, the reshuffle can be said to have been practically sound, unless of course we can show that whoever has been shifted wherever still cannot meet the grade. The grade to my mind, in this instance, is not that he or she does not have expert knowledge about her/his new area of administrative jurisdiction. On the contrary, it is whether she/he has the requisite administrative and management acumen.

This is contrary to the submission that has been made in certain quarters that some ministries may be proving to be heavier than others and thus inappropriate to have re-assigned less heavier chief administrators.

I cannot believe that after years at the helm of ministries or the one or other government office or agency, there are still among our cream of top administrators administratively less wanting ones. Should that be the case, then something may be grossly amiss and the recent reshuffle may have been a non-starter.

Yes, granted that in terms of the subject matters ministries deal with, there could be varying degrees of complexity. But is there an intrinsic connection between the complexity of any ministry’s subject matter and its administrative machinery?

Does any ministry’s administration become complex because the field it deals with is complex? Well, I stand to be advised by both fellow administrative practicians and theoretical gurus.

However, to me the general principles of administration do not become more or less complex just because the company subjected to administration deals in cats as opposed to dogs.

Now that I presume the air may partially have been cleared depending on how you look at this matter, the newly-assigned PS’s should not be discouraged by the avowed complexity or heaviness of their new assignments.

After all, in the words of the PM, they have been given a vantage point from which to look at the challenges.

However, a little observation may be in order. Somehow our chief administrators seem for a greater part of their administrative sojourns too much engrossed in non-administrative matters to the extent of losing sight and track of their administrative briefs. Viewing the challenges with a different eye may prove somehow cast in stone unless they remain true to the reason d’??????’??

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