Analysis: GODFREY CHITALU
ON MY recent trip to Chipata, I met gloomy faces conversing tersely in almost inaudible tones about transfers that had been effected by the Local Government Service Commission (LGSC). As I tried to warm my way into their freezy discussion, it was evident that they were looking for a shoulder to cry on.I was told that the much-feared LGSC had just concluded its provincial sitting. The results, which were now an open secret, involved haphazard transfers, demotions and promotions.
I got amused because prior to departure to Chipata, one of my friends working with the Lusaka City Council had expressed misgivings about a workmate who had been transferred three times in a short space of time. He claimed, rightly or wrongly, a daggers drawn relationship between the commission and local authorities.
Does this commission appreciate the word ‘delegation’?
Without the need for unnecessary legal jargon, the LGSC is part of five other commissions enshrined under the Service Commission Act of 2016.
Although there is no need to mention others, this commission seems to have had a fair share of news coverage. They are not just always advertising for positions but the lean committee is almost outdoing itself in visiting as many districts as possible.
Going back to the book, the first major and prime function of this service commission, as provided in the constitution, is to re-grade, transfer and separate employees in the Local Government Service.
Their provincial and district sittings have been compared to a panacea, whose effect might call for critical thinking. Like most commissions, this one, among others, is mandated by regulation to delegate any of its functions to responsible officers or committees.
While we do understand the need to be seen to work, superintending over more than 100 local authorities in terms of demotions, transfers and promotions is a herculean task that needs deliberate, diversified and delegated overtures.
Unfortunately, as I learnt during a recent church conference, very few leaders upon appointment remember to please the appointing authority through delegation.
In the Bible, it is said that Moses did not put systems in place that allowed quick dispensation of justice and insisted on holding on the baton in a supposedly relay race. I think the time for service commissions to delegate as enshrined in the law is now. It is actually for good for them.
The advice given by Jethro, Midian Priest and father-in-law to Moses, is applicable to our service commissions today; decentralisation within the system is the answer. “The thing you do is not good. You will surely wear yourself out – both you and these people that are with you – for the thing is too heavy for you, you will not be able to do it alone.”
In decentralised social media, most of our conversations are with people we don’t know, just like in the case of commissions, where there is an aloofness that is never appreciated by employees.
While it is true that the local authority commission is vested with the exclusive right of appointments, promotions, demotions, dismissals and retirements in all our local authorities, it is important to read through the Act.
The Act is very clear about delegation; like Moses, commissions should not be blinded by the desire to Lord it over all and sundry. Yes, we do know that provinces assist by giving information, but does it stop the commission from gallivanting all over Zambia? The answer is no.
Although decentralisation continues to be used to describe myriad power sharing arrangements, in the case of the LGSC, duplicity can be avoided if it works in tandem with provincial teams. I’m afraid after my sojourn to Chipata, I instituted basic investigation that has seen me gather pointers on the haphazard nature of some of the transfers in local authorities.
One lady, who had requested to be transferred closer to her sickly husband, was given the Jonah treatment by being sent to the furthest opposite local authority.
Another, who took time to study stores keeping, was regressed to a hospitality role while someone who has no idea of procurement is doing tenders.
Some of these mistakes are not deliberate but arise from the Moses syndrome. We need a Jethro to speak into the lives of members of the LGSC, as the complexity of transferring human resources is not an easy task.
One similar scenario I was told about insinuated that had someone listened to their cry, some of the effected transfers could have been renegotiated. “Why should you transfer an established council female worker married to a pastor leading one of the biggest churches in the district?” How will chaplaincy activities be done with the same local authority if the man of God is being forcibly made single? Of course, I wouldn’t be happy if this was actually not a simile.
The author is a social and political commentator.
Analysis: GODFREY CHITALU