Editor's Comment

Civil servants’ make or break


THE call by Secretary to the Cabinet Roland Msiska for civil servants to conduct themselves in a manner that builds confidence in citizens and benefits society should be taken seriously by all those occupying public offices.Dr Msiska said public service accountability and transparency are critical to rebuilding trust between citizens and governance institutions and also for Government to attract funding for development projects.
Speaking when he launched the ‘Accountable Governance for Improved Service delivery’ project, Dr Msiska said lack of accountability and transparency in the public service undermines efforts to realise fiscal decentralisation.
We could not agree more with Dr Msiska. Civil servants need to understand that they are the face of Government, and whatever they do in the course of their duties has a bearing on Government’s image.
For instance, if public officers’ conduct themselves in a positive manner, government is also likely to be perceived as such by stakeholders.
In any given country or regime, civil servants play a critical role in service delivery and development process.
This is because, while any government in power may have a vision for the country, it takes the public service technocrats to translate that vision into policy and action.
The role of civil servants is to implement policies and programmes of Government to achieve the much-desired economic development.
It is also within the duties of public service workers to raise revenue for the country and oversee public expenditure to ensure prudent use of resources for maximum development benefits.
It is, therefore, indisputable that public service is at the centre of service delivery.
Given the significant role that public service workers play in the country’s development process, it is a requirement under the public service code of conduct to execute their duties in a more responsible, accountable and transparent manner.
Sadly, this has not been the case for some of our public officers.
Actually it is not a secret that the public service has time and again found itself in the public limelight for wrong reasons such as unprofessional conduct and bad work ethic.
The civil service has over the years been associated with late reporting for work and early knock-offs, absenteeism, loitering, inefficiency, briberies and financial mismanagement.
The Auditor General’s annual reports are a continuous reminder of the levels of financial mismanagement among public officers.
Unfortunately such reports, as rightly observed by Dr Msiska, can erode confidence of co-operating partners and investors.
As a developing country, Zambia still depends on co-operating partners to fund some development projects. However, without accountability and transparency in the way public resources are managed, it is difficult to bring co-operating partners on board.
The conduct of civil servants in the course of their duties can either build or destroy the country.
It is for this reason that, even at the risk of sounding like a broken record, we will continue re-emphasising the need for a responsible, professional and effective civil service.
Civil servants need to be constantly reminded that the responsibility they shoulder of driving the country’s service delivery and development agenda is huge.
It therefore requires them to be selfless and focus on the bigger picture as opposed to their narrow interests.
This responsibility lies on individual public officers who should listen to their moral consciences on the right and acceptable conduct.
Government, on the other hand, is responsible for putting in place regulations and systems aimed at promoting good conduct in the civil service.
It is therefore commendable that owing to poor accountability and corruption from the Auditor General’s reports and others, the Public Financial Management Act was approved to strengthen financial, procurement and internal audit systems in government departments.
The act will no doubt enhance transparency and accountability in public resource utilisation as well as effective service delivery.

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