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The President has added the fifth D (Delivery) to his four Ds (Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline). There is no doubt that the public service in Botswana has been criticized for poor service delivery.

It has been said that the larger populace lack access to services and opportunities largely because of the incompetent bureaucracy. Productivity is said to be low in the civil service. Both micro and macro public sector reforms have been tried by government to improve levels of productivity and/or efficiency and effectiveness.

Institutions such as Botswana National Productivity Center have been set up. Reforms such as the Work Improvements Teams, Performance Management Systems, Performance Based Rewards Systems, Business Process Reengineering, and e governance/e government among others have been tried without avail.

Privatisation in various forms such as total privatisation of public companies, outsourcing and contracting out have been cited as remedial measures to low efficiency and effectiveness. It is true that there is laxity and a rather lackadaisical attitude by some public officers in hospitals, post offices, and other offices.

However, the bureaucracy has been used as a convenient scapegoat for bad political decisions by politicians. Sometimes politicians take decisions based on petty political expediency without paying particular attention to details of implementation. While the fifth D provides the nation with an opportunity to reflect and introspect on service delivery, it has the potential to cause problems. Dismissals of senior government officials have been reported and confirmed.

There is tremendous pressure on senior civil servants such as Permanent Secretaries, Directors, Council Secretaries and other senior officers to prove that they are taking heed of the President’s message on the need for deliver. Immediate junior officers are easily used as scapegoats by incompetent seniors.

There are news reports of PS, Directors, CS and ACS issuing instructions and stiff ultimatum and thereby instilling fear in junior public officers, something which is new in the public service. Some may resort to sycophancy or bootlicking, backstabbing and other gibberish tendencies in their quest for survival.

There would be many unnecessary casualties in the process. The fifth D may bring greater discontent, fear as a result of rule by iron fist and bad organizational culture. Consequently, working for the civil service may be seen as no longer enjoyable.

The problem of delivery is erroneously seen as an obvious consequence of laxity and incompetence of public officers. Issues such as availability of resources, modern technology (e.g. ICT), occupational health and safety, motivation, reward systems, poor conditions of service, bad recruitment and selection systems, bad promotions and transfer systems and political interference/political expediency are ignored as possible impediments to good service delivery.

Organizational democracy has been the hallmark of Botswana’s bureaucracy and that may now give way to organizational autocracy. Advocacy for delivery must correspond with good working conditions and the plight of workers.

Public officers are constantly reminded that they are volunteers to national service and should be inspired by the need to serve their country rather than by the desire to make money. This is overly simplistic and unfortunate.

This is usually said to justify the status quo in terms of poor working conditions and low salaries. Service delivery cannot be achieved through dismissals or constantly threatening people with dismissals, demotions or transfers and the general rule by fear. The fifth D, while a welcome development, may bring the aforesaid unintended consequences.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Dithapelo Keorapetse

Quelle/Source: The Bostwana Gazette, 01.12.2009

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