Holding ministers accountable, better planning, a high implementation rate of government programmes and better service delivery are among the changes Namibians can expect after cabinet members signed their performance agreements yesterday.
At the signing ceremony for the performance agreements – which was done for the first time since independence – President Hage Geingob said he expected nothing but increased and improved service delivery from his foot soldiers.
Permanent secretaries already signed their agreements in September and deputy ministers are expected to sign theirs from today.
Over the years the public has been unhappy with government’s poor record when it comes to delivering basic services, despite taxpayers forking out about N$22 billion on the government wage bill for its 100 000 civil servants.
Service delivery has left much to be desired with basic services such as health care, water provision and education merely a dream for some Namibians – especially those in the remote areas of the country.
The agreements will for once provide specific targets against which ministers can be assessed, unlike in the past when the public could not measure the performance of political heads.
Before overseeing the signing ceremony at State House yesterday, Geingob reminded ministers that for government to successfully implement its policies and achieve the desired results there should be a high degree of accountability for all political leaders, managers and staff members in the civil service.
“I hold dear the principles of accountability. It has been said that accountability is the glue that ties commitment to results. Without the enforcement of accountability, our efforts to address the needs of citizens will be in vain,” said Geingob, who indicated that performance agreements should not be viewed as punitive measures.
Although he stated that failure to achieve targets must be accompanied by consequences, Geingob did not list what the consequences would be for ministers who failed to deliver.
“The syndrome of passing the buck must become a thing of the past. This is the approach adopted by all successful institutions around the world and as a country determined to compete on an equal footing with our peers in the global economy, we should follow suit,” he said.
Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said the performance agreements would be made public so that citizens can make their own assessments.
The agreements will only be valid for the next six months when the current financial year ends, after which new agreements will be signed that will be valid for a year.
Only 19 of the 26 ministers signed their performance contracts in the presence of President Hage Geingob yesterday. Attorney-General Sakeus Shanghala also signed his performance agreement yesterday.
Absent from the signing ceremony were Calle Schlettwein (finance), Dr Bernard Haufiku (health), Katrina Hanse-Himarwa (basic education), Penda ya Ndakolo (defence), Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana (home affairs), Charles Namoloh (safety and security) and Pohamba Shifeta (environment).
Soon after the ministers signed their agreements questions were already being asked by armchair critics and analysts about whether adequate systems are in place to help ministers meet their targets.
View of an analyst
Political analyst Dr Hoze Riruako, although he lauded the signing of the agreements, does not think ministers have the needed ammunition to meet their targets.
“Although there is a benchmark for them [ministers] to achieve their task it is complex because there are related activities that should precede the performance agreements such as ensuring that tangible resources are intact, ascertaining that the needed skill base is available and providing financial resources commensurate with work to be done. From an academic point of view all this has not been done,” he said.
“You cannot expect someone to do things but the system has not been brought up to a level that can support the set targets.”
Asked whether the agreements would help to improve service delivery, Riruako said: “It is debatable. Of course it will force ministers to remain focused to try and achieve their targets but we must understand that ministries are not single units run by one person, it is a complex set-up and therefore I do not think that it will enforce performance or improve service delivery.”
Riruako however agreed that the new agreements would help the president when it comes to holding ministers accountable.