Friday 14 May 2021
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Conceptual Alienation and Failing Public Systems

As the year is ending, we look back at some achievements but also with great concern for the deterioration of many public institutions.
It’s one thing to have gained freedom but quite another to gain independence.
The present clearly demonstrate that as a nation, independence is a farfetched notion.
Our dream for independence, which I define as the ability to create and effectively manage our own systems, is devoid of contextualised conceptualisation.
We own management systems and institutions which operate literally to enhance some foreign policy of international donors. Sadly, at home our policy makers are nothing more than glorified thinking parrots.
This conceptual alienation is enshrined at every level of our current public institutions, constantly creating conflict between what we say in theory and what we do in practice. For example, NSFAF and the Ministry of Health and Social Services both with well written policies, but have over the years deteriorated into some of the most mismanaged public institutions.
Handled hundreds of millions which cannot be accounted for, but it’s the less privileged Namibians that live to feel the brunt of being denied access to education and health care. In the meanwhile, the perpetrators will be changed from one ministry to another or be promoted to go bankrupt another SOE.
As citizens, it’s sad to behold how institutions that ought to promote the wellbeing of society lack to uphold their internal operations within the given conceptual framework.
Should we believe that what is there in theory hasn’t translated into generating a practical rationality.
The outcome of this lack of a contextualised conceptualisation leads to having institutions that fail to create a culture of efficiency. Every new minister, permanent secretary, director and management team keep changing the rules – often not for the good. With every change, making the institutions more susceptible to corruption and various kinds of malpractices.
While borrowing information from other nations and systems is an acceptable thing, failure to contextualise will lead to having government approved white elephant institutions.
Moreover, we cannot expect successful public institutions in the absence of a culture of accountability and excellence.
But if we live in a context in which the we are alienated from concepts and policies that are to govern us, this would be our culture.
This is a moral crisis many aren’t aware of, that you cannot develop functional state institutions on wholesale borrowed patterns.
The Greeks developed their civilisation based on having conceptualised their own structures and sought to adopt them into the kind of culture they wanted.
Sadly, in our case, the very structures we have and the policies governing them don’t serve to construct a culture of progress and excellence.
Public institutions fast disintegrating with some out of hand to be managed and others are so poorly managed or simply being maintained for the sake of maintenance. All representing a much more fundamental level beyond mere competence or abilities.
The year is ending and sadly it’s not ending with a hopeful prospect from my perspective of things. After the holidays, we’ll all return to the same public institutions, receiving poor service delivery and conceptually alienated policies.
We’ll be returning to be led by leaders who continue to fail transforming the policies we have to be truly Namibian. We’ll return to being led with policies and structures that appeal to the international donor community but of no practical value to our own context.
Without the awareness of the weight of the task upon those who govern this country and manage its public institutions, we cannot expect meaningful transformation.
We’ll continue to be handed plagiarised policies, which are passed onto parliament for approval; hire experts with ideas that add no practical value to our challenges; implement systems which we’ve never had time to think about.
Only in the context of awareness can we create structures that are contextually relevant to the concerns and needs of the Namibian public.
This country that we all love, regardless of our political and ideological disagreements, cannot become a progressive country with the current structure of things.
Until we start owning what we put out the in the public as governing documents, adopt them to speak to our context not only in theory but at practical level.
We only have this country, this is our home and it would be foolish of us to think that we can fix our challenges with concepts that are obviously not yielding results. These public institutions are ours and can only be strengthened to deliver by crosschecking the ideas that inform their operations.
Finally, while we cannot flee from politics, we should face the fact that to change a country requires having people in place with the needed expertise.
At present, our composition of ministers and permanent secretaries who head these institutions does not inspire much confidence.
These institutions ought to serve the interest of the public not the political ambitions of a political party (manifested through appointing incompetent and ignorant individuals as ministers, permanent secretaries, directors etc).
Unless we change this culture of people being appointed based on their loud signing of liberation struggle songs, our public institutions will continue to disintegrate.

Basilius M. Kaser

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