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THE CRUX OF THE MATTER

By; Winstanley R Bankole Johnson

As our “Fountain of Honour” it is a fact that anything our President associates himself with should have a “Midas” effect. That fact is not lost amongst Ministers and CEOs of MDAs, hence the relish with which they frequently invite him to grace their many workshops and deliver Key note speeches. In reality both the organizers of such workshops and the President invariably have two ulterior intentions. Whereas latter see each such gathering as an opportunity to drive distinct components of his vision and agenda for prosperity, the former see them as an opportunity to use the President as a front to mask their ineptitude and use the photo-opportunities that come with it to flaunt a feel good attitude.

Enrichment

The recent political, administrative and technical workshop of the country’s public service, intended mainly to strengthen professional and inter-personal relationships between and amongst the leaderships of MDAs, which historically has been extensively dichotomized, evincing gulf-wide rifts and bad blood between and amongst their leadership cadre, could be described as one such. And to the extent that the outcomes did not reflect significant amendments and alterations to exiting General Orders (GOs), General Instructions Circulars (GICs) or Departmental Operating Instructions (DOIs), the logical question arises as to whether the exercise was worth beyond the enrichment of the organizers.

Litany of Commitments

To emphasize my point, I will ignore the generic workshop foreplays (registration, ground rules, introductions, lunch breaks and the discriminatory per diem pricing mechanisms –  all of which have at some point received the attention of others) and focus instead on the real workshop intercourse which consisted of two main thrusts: (a) the penultimate statement by the Head, Public Sector Reform Unit (PSRU) and the Human Resource Management Office (HRMO) as the Chief Organizers and (b) the keynote statement by H.E the President. The former as usual was laced with a litany of commitments and determination “not to allow the expected outcomes to be left to gather dusts on shelves as in past workshops….” (to a generic nod of participants as always), whilst during the key speech by the President, more attention was paid to exchanging direct furtive glances and nods with him to entice consideration for appointments, than to what he was saying.

Critical Issues

By the departure of HE the President on the very first day, the entire hall was virtually empty, warranting the Deputy Minister of Health (2) to querulously enquire whether the workshop should not at that point have been called off instead. To that I will respectfully hazard further questions. Did that workshop achieve its intended purpose(s)? Were the organizers not over-expectant to have assumed that its 3-day duration was enough to heal the discords, grudges, hatred and acrimonious relationship between and amongst Ministers and Deputies or Permanent Secretaries or between heads of various Parastatals and their various supervising ministries and Boards that had been festering over decades?

The answers to all above is a resounding “NO!!”, because the critical issues engendering eternal disconnects between and amongst Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, CEOs, Board Directors and other subordinates which most times range from feelings of insecurity of office tenures, nepotism, tribalism and regionalism or even necromancies were either deliberately omitted in broader reference or simply glossed over and not addressed at all.

Are the GOs, GICs and DOIs governing the conduct of employees in our MDAs today not of one and the same spirit as obtained decades ago? So how come practical governance parameters are now so lax? Or rather, why are present day work ethics so banal…….mundane…. puerile….so indecorous? The fact is that regulatory breaches is now the fad and are engendered by several reasons.

Bad Blood

These days recruitment of a single individual to a key position is tantamount to recruiting his entire family and tribal connections. In some cases you’d think his entire village was included in the employment contract because they all virtually resume duty with him. And they would linger around the office premises doing odd jobs for the boss/brother and familiarize with the environment until over a period of time they all become gradually absorbed into the mainstream workforce, sometimes with disregard for the existing pecking order. Soon the animosity between existing staff and the newcomers deepens, to the detriment of institutional efficiency and productivity.

In many instances, existing staff cadre continue to be ignored, neglected, victimized and even bye-passed during promotions until hopefully (or rather hopelessly) the key resource is re-assigned (or if a minister, is re-shuffled into unemployment) and when another King comes “that knows not Joseph”, all hell breaks loose for the cronies left in the establishment. The bad blood continues…..and the beat goes on. I know of Para-statals where the schisms between CEOs and their Deputies have permeated and split administrations right in the middle and even down unto the non-clerical cadre.  New Board Directors and CEOs have been compelled to inherit and restructure such internecine work environments, in order to weed out the previously connected insolents.

Who’s’ Who

Job adverts are tailor-made for specific individuals with the right connections. And it has been like this since the sixties if you please!! Except that these days, as with almost everything that has to do with decorum, it is worse. In all such circumstances, the Human Resource Directorates know full well who’s who;  who brought who or through whose connections; who to protect with kid gloves, exclude from provincial transfers and who gets frequently promoted or sent on off-shore courses. Here again the bad blood ensuing forth from such diabolic governance patterns seriously undermines administrative efficiency and performance outputs.

Preconceived Arrogance/Suspicions

It is not uncommon for Ministers under new political dispensations to resume offices with pre-conceived arrogance, suspicion and disdain for their professional subordinates, especially if they do not belong to the same tribe or political persuasion. The professionals are guilty of that too. And it is from that point onwards that daggers are drawn, with each vowing to “teach the other a lesson” so as to prove political or administrative supremacy. The closer any of them is to the corridors of power, the greater the impunity, the thicker and more protracted the animosity, irrespective of who has right, again to the detriment of proper service delivery. And when it comes to recruitment and procurement, the issues of choices become nepotic.

Attitudinal,  Not  Systemic

The PSRU/HRMO is not oblivious of these social malaises, yet they proceeded to wastefully organize a workshop, the deliberations and outcomes of which were of no interest to the targeted participants, except of course to use the show as a continuous assessments under their Performance Contracts. I say this with a conviction because by the 3rd day, only two (2) Ministers (of Youth and Social Welfare) graced the closing functions – both probably compelled to do so as a means of avoiding confrontations with their exuberant and highly expectant constituents in their respective offices. Perhaps the PSRU/HRMO ought to have extended the target group to have also included the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), because the problems are attitudinal – not systemic.

But for me the way forward is for the PSRU/HRMO to henceforth insist on a rigid adherence to and compliance with, existing governance platforms which in the main compels Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and CEOs to work with inherited human resources, instead of each bringing on board their own (from Personal Assistants to Drivers), thereby disrupting administrative symmetry and orderliness. That is the crux of the matter. As is always the case, the benefits of enforcing laws far outweigh a payroll bloated by “connecto-crats” and non-performers.

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