Editor's Comment

Zero tolerance for indiscipline

THE civil service is supposed to be just like any other employer, just like any other functional workplace where jobs are taken seriously and indiscipline is not tolerated. As such, people who join the civil service are expected to religiously embrace the code of conduct, which lays out the standards, and the moral and ethical expectations that employees and third parties are held to as they interact within government circles. A code of conduct spells out the rules, values, ethical principles and vision for civil servants’ work. As a result, civil servants are appraised from time to time to assess how they are performing. Often, the best employees are retained in the busiest or most comfortable locations while the least competent or less disciplined are transferred to rural and undesirable locations. This is not to say that all those working in remote parts of the country are incompetent. Far from it, there are many diligent public workers who absorb rural hardships and perform their duties very well. It is common, however, to find civil servants who are deemed lazy, drunkards or indeed those who are known fraudsters being shielded from disciplinary action by being posted to rural areas where the impact of their incompetence would ostensibly have little or no impact. Similarly, such workers could be transferred to departments and sections where it is thought that their poor performances would have little, if any, adverse effect on the overall operations. To the contrary, however, such employees have a huge impact on service delivery and overall performance of public entities. This is why Chief Justice Mumba Malila says erring civil servants whose misconduct has been substantiated should not be recycled through transfers but be separated from the public service. Justice Malila is categorical by stating that where discipline requires the public service commissioners to get rid of individuals from service, they should not hesitate to do so if it is done on very proven grounds. This is as it should be. Bad eggs among employees can derail implementation and completion of various tasks and service delivery. The hard-working staff could slacken in their performance if they see that some of their colleagues are not punished for wrongdoing. Not many would want to be working more than they should just because others are not performing their duties. As it were, no position in the establishment structure is of no use, otherwise it wouldn’t have been included. So in whatever position one is, they must work hard and earn their money. Those that cannot perform the duties for which they were employed and are being paid must face disciplinary action, which may include sacking them. Zambia has no shortage of qualified and competent people. This is evidenced by thousands of applications that are often received for jobs that are advertised. So those that already have these jobs must guard them jealously. The best way in which to do so is by working hard and being disciplined. These two traits of a good employee go together. It would be pointless to have a hard-working individual who is also undisciplined. For instance, one could meet their performance targets and even exceed them, but also have sticky fingers that cause Government to lose revenue. Such a ‘hard-working’ employee should not be transferred to another department. They must be disciplined, and if this entails sacking them, so be it. As already said, there would be no difficulty in replacing them with other hard-working but also disciplined people. As the Chief Justice has said, transferring an erring employee is not disciplining them, but rather transferring a problem. This shouldn’t be allowed to continue. While it is important to discipline erring workers, it is also important to ensure that the due disciplinary process is followed. The erring employee must be given a fair opportunity to exculpate himself or herself in line with the disciplinary code. In any case, sacking is not always the solution. There are other ways of effecting disciplinary action as provided for in collective agreements and other disciplinary codes. All these ways of disciplinary action would not happen if every public worker performs their duties and conduct themselves as is expected of them. Let it be known to them, however, that now there is zero tolerance for undisciplined public service workers.

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