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Cleaning up public service a step in the right direction

As the nation awaits Public Service Day on November 1, many are still wondering what the relevant ministry is going to bring about.

The public service, in the Kingdom, as in the rest of the countries on the continent is the biggest employer. It is also the only employer that many people will ever know in their entire working lives.

It was therefore refreshing to hear the Public Service Minister Motloheloa Phooko saying a lot is lined up for this day to be celebrated at Setsoto Stadium.

Without pre-emptying one of the biggest days in our national calendar, the minister hinted that there are serious reforms that the government has put in place.

Thankfully, such measures include better and improved use of technology, presumably IT, to enhance service delivery in the sector.

On top of that there will also be measures to put in place a blueprint to ensure civil servants deliver against clear timeframes and deliverables.

That will be a breath of fresh air into a sector traditionally notorious for non-performance in Africa.

The diversity that comes with a coalition government can work wonders if the partners implement changes in the public service to the letter and spirit of the three parties’ 2012 agreement.

In our context, the public service is too big to be left to a single political party.

More than any other government the coalition administration is best suited for the most radical transformation of this key sector, precisely because decision makers are not a homogenous group.

Lesotho is in better stead to become a shining example of genuine multi-party democracy on a continent notorious for cumbersome red-tape and corruption in its public service which frustrate foreign development partners and impede development.

Fate graced Lesotho with a unique model of governance in which, on the whole, for once an African state has all the ingredients of putting to shame stereotypes fed since the 1960s by one-party type of rule that has been typical of African governments.

The fact that, in the very first place, coalition partners cleverly included a close on “agreeing to disagree” in their pact clearly makes for democratic differences which should, ultimately, give the nation the springboard from which to launch a legacy of genuine democratic governance.

History has shown that in most African countries multi-party democracy is only most active on polling days.

After that the party which wins the majority of votes, never mind the win might be very marginal, will give itself a blank cheque when it comes to filling key posts in the public service.

In the end it will be the President’s cronies occupying key positions in all strategic ministries of the cabinet. The same pattern of cronyism is repeated in the lower rungs of the public service.

In the end great technocrats are completely excluded from exercising their skills and talents to take nations forward.

In the absence of a huge industrial base, the most influential “industry” in Lesotho’s case are the different jobs in government.

Our leaders therefore need to put most of their thoughts and energies in this sector because this is where most of the taxpayers’ money is spent.

The fact that public servants will be expected to work towards deliverables is most welcome.

In most poor countries, the public service is the sector which attracts the worst performers in the country.


This is because there is no accountability and transparency in government jobs.

Anyone can enter the job market and stay in the civil service until they retire without anyone asking them to account for the money they earn through any measurable work plan.

Legend has it that in the worst of cases in some countries civil servants simply go to work in the morning to leave their jackets in the office as a sign to anyone who might enter the office that the occupant is around, when in fact the officer is busy moonlighting or chasing some personal errands.

In some countries, the rot is so hopeless that civil servants can work for months and months on end without knowing when to expect a salary.

This eventually leads to serious brain drain in the sector.

The few workers that will be left are only those who are not competitive on the market anyway and even these will end up supplementing their incomes by selling all sorts of items on the job to supplement their increasingly meaningless incomes.

A few weeks ago, our sister paper Lesotho Times carried a story about government houses in Butha Buthe where there is a dispute regarding which government workers should occupy those houses.

The dispute has been longstanding and it predates the incumbent government.

We believe the relevant authorities should move with speed to rectify any signs of corruption, especially since in this case it was alleged that some lower grade civil servants had to pay a bribe to senior civil servants to whom the houses were allocated.

The government should not take even the slightest whiff of wrongdoing for granted if the country is going to reap maximum benefits from the inherent diversity of a coalition government which makes for clear potential to enhance the country’s democracy.

The highlights given by Minister Phooko are a step in the right direction. We urge our leaders to give the nation more of such upgrades in the public service where the country puts most of its money.

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