Saturday 17 April 2021
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Leadership and accountability

The ongoing oversight and management problems of state-owned entities such as Transnamib, RCC and Air Namibia, as well as the scandals at national and regional government directorates, is indisputable proof that there is an endemic lack of leadership, management skills and competence in the majority of state entities. And more and more, service delivery at local level is also impacted negatively by these factors.
Namibia is far removed from a corps of objective and professional civil servants, especially at this time. This means that as a result of internal party political tensions, the operation of a directorates or local authorities are incapacitated, both in terms of decision-making power and human resources.  Clearly, the erosion of the public service’s capacity begins with the president-appointed ministers and their permanent secretaries who have been given ample power by the law to appoint who they wish to.
South African columnist Dr Theuns Eloff who is the executive director of the FW de Klerk Foundation, last week wrote that “cadre deployment, corruption, the application of transformation ideology and associated vacancies, as well as the tension within the ANC are all restricting effective functioning of the state.” This is so true in the Namibian context as well, those deployed to lead SOEs are mostly Swapo members rewarded for their loyalty to the party.
President Hage Geingob’s model to compel ministers to sign performance agreement is most welcome, but such a move will only be effective if there are consequences for those who fail to meet their targets. In most cases, those who fail to meet targets will merely be moved from one ministry to the other and continue in a “business as usual” manner.
In the light of a contemporary public sector, there is an ongoing paradigm shift in the relationship between the private citizenry as well as government and this will require more effective collaboration between the sectors. The result of these overarching changes is the need for a strong, outcome focused and collaborative leadership across all sectors, and specifically in the public sector. Leadership will be critical.
The leadership will be required to have a strong adhesive bond to keep the country moving. Decision-making needs to be precise and aimed at meeting the needs of the populace, hence ministers should know that failure to deliver will cost everyone dearly.
Leadership in any organization is important, but developing good leaders in the public sector is especially crucial. In the private sector, through performance management, managers and staff members can discuss the employees’ skills and lay out goals to put them on track for more senior roles. Government needs to adopt a similar approach whereby ministers are evaluated broadly to help them carry out their mandates effectively.
Our leaders need to understand that today’s public sector leaders need to function with fewer resources and continually find new ways to tackle challenges, hence there is need for critical thinking and replacing political trickery with governance perfection. Also, in today’s world the size of the public sector does not determine the effectiveness of a government, we need to take note that information and the utilization thereof is the greatest resource for development.

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