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Saturday 31 October 2020
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NAMIBIA NEEDS A COMPETENT PUBLIC SERVICE TO ADDRESS THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC CHALLENGES FACING THE MAJORITY OF CITIZENS

Private Citizen Nahas Angula

President Hage Geingob in his address to the first Cabinet Meeting on 4 February 2020 called on his Executive Team to engage in the exercise of self-examination and self-reflection for the purpose of determining whether each member of the Executive Team has translated the dreams of the President into tangible outcome in favour of the citizens. It is not quite clear as to what will happen when each Cabinet member completes the process of introspection whether he or she will report back to the President. And no deadline was given.

 

Engaging in introspection is a process of self-discovery. This means that one must first identify ones competencies and capabilities. Noel Burch (1970) of the Gordon Training Institute identified four stages of determining ones competencies. The first stage is that of being oblivious to ones’ incompetence. This is the state characterized by the saying: “… I don’t know what I don’t know”. The second stage is being aware of ones’ incompetence: “…I know what I don’t know”. A person is aware of his or her limitations. There is a sense of self-awareness. The third stage is of being able to learn and address one’ limitations. At this stage, a person dedicates himself or herself to improving one’ skills. The fourth stage is when one is able to demonstrate a skill unconsciously. In other words one does not need to think of an action one is good at. Burch concluded that, “…whenever we explore a new area of our lives that are unfamiliar with, we require a step- by-step process to become acquainted with it”. I suppose this is the process the President wants his Executive Team to go through. This may help the Ministers to develop a sense of self awareness.

 

Normally when a new Minister is assigned to a portfolio the Administration of that portfolio prepares extensive briefing noted including the current policy papers, the laws and regulations governing that particular portfolio, the resources available and challenges facing the Sector. Briefings are necessary but they are not sufficient in themselves. Every institution has its own unwritten culture. The Minister is therefore required to engage into stakeholders’ engagement to fully appreciate the workings of the Sector and the context within which he or she shall operate in.

 

While self-reflection is important the President may wish to think about ways and means of developing a competent Public Service. In November 2011, the South African Presidency through its National Planning Commission issued a document titled: “ Institutions and Governance Diagnostic”. The document described how South Africa could turn itself into a capable State which should bring about rapid and sustainable transformation in the country’s economic and social conditions through active, intensive and effective interventions in the structural causes of economic and social under-development. This required a competent Public Service which is accountable and effective. In this regard the State should employ a highly skilled and competent workforce into the Public Service. Such a Public Service should be closely connected to the wider society. The document made a number of cogent recommendations. The document stressed the need for identifying skilled implementers; addressing the challenge of overcoming capacity weaknesses; the critical necessity of overcoming low public confidence through fighting corruption; the importance of mobilizing the citizens to embrace the national  development plan so that its implementation becomes a collective exercise; and the imperative need to address gaps in administrative capacity, financial provision and between policy formulation and implementation. Overall the document emphasized the critical requirement of an effective leadership as well as the importance of building-up institutional capacity.

 

In the Namibian context where there is a serious resources constraint, the State is required to be transparent in resources allocation. The low allocation of resources  to various sectors is not helping matters. Sectors such as Health, Education, Agriculture and Housing were declared priority areas at Independence. Social safety nets are important but do not contribute to the growth of the economy. Perhaps it is high time to rationalize the various safety nets. For example, if a retiree receives a pension from GIPF at a certain threshold such a person may not be entitled to other safety nets. Of course it is difficult to withdraw a benefit from someone, but a policy may say from date so anybody going on pension and receives a pension at a certain level will not be entitled to other forms of safety nets from Government. At the same time Government may wish to consider different ways of taxing pensions. Such an arrangement will not be popular but if high pension earners are properly educated new pensioners might accept to forgo multiple safety nets from Government. This may release some resources to fund critical needs.

 

While the Executive Team is engaging in introspection, the nation should ponder how to turn the Namibian State into a competent State. For this to happen, the Public Service should turn itself into a learning organization. As the President appoints a new Executive Team, team building must be the priority. A Cabinet Retreat at NIPAM may be a good starting point!




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