Bloated government a colonial legacy – Geingob

Windhoek-President Hage Geingob has admitted the structure of the public service is bloated, but attributed this to the historical reality that Namibia inherited civil servants from structures that existed during the apartheid era.

He said the post-Independence government inherited these structures and maintained them in the interest of peace and reconciliation.

Some critics have blamed Geingob for the country's current economic downturn, and accused him of running a bloated government that created new ministries as well as a large team of presidential advisors.

Geingob, who yesterday addressed his staff and those under the vice presidency, said that after independence the government had to maintain and incorporate those who were already on board with new personnel in the interest of inclusivity.

"If you add to what is already there, then it will beef up. Is it not so? During the apartheid era black Namibians were not in the administration. They were sweepers [cleaners] and only in positions as ornaments. After independence, we could have fired all whites and put in blacks," he noted.

However, had the Namibian government fired all whites it would have been a disaster, as they possessed experience in various sectors.

"If you lock out people with key experience then they will lock you out. Many whites would have been left out, but they are Namibians so we should accommodate them and add others. So it's true the civil service is bloated," he stated.

However, if government were to downsize now, many people would end up on the streets and would add to the already high number of unemployed people.

Those who were left behind by apartheid were also Namibians, and hence government had to also absorb them into an independent Namibia.

Further, he added that the reason he appointed presidential advisors was to bring in people who possessed the requisite competencies to provide executive support for strategic efforts.

He maintained there was nothing wrong with having such advisors as they had always been part of government structures and was something done elsewhere in the world.

"This is not a new concept, except the fact that we have catered for youth and business, since these are crucial sectors in our developmental efforts.

"What we need to do is to improve our performance and output. This year, let us disappoint the naysayers with success. Let us defeat them with hard work. Let us deliver, deliver, and deliver," Geingob said.

He explained that government created certain ministries and offices because the presidency had been tasked with bringing about shared prosperity in Namibia.

Another issue he addressed was the issue of civil servants taking unnecessary trips to claim subsistence and travelling allowances (S&T). Geingob took a swipe at some fathers who allegedly abandon their children, saying this forces single mothers to the extreme of creating unnecessary trips in the name of S&T to support these dependents.

Namibians would succeed if people established a culture of efficient and effective service delivery.

In order to do so, he urged people to focus on adopting a service culture, staff engagement, service quality and public engagement.

In terms of service culture, he said currently the country had a poor service culture both in the public and private sectors.

He challenged management to establish a set of overriding principles within the presidency, which would control, maintain and develop a culture of superior service delivery.

He cited Namibia's international airports where there was a need to provide more staff to assist travellers, saying if they did not provide such services investors (airlines) would disappear.

Managers needed to cultivate positive attitudes amongst staff to control, maintain and develop a social process that would manifest itself as delivery of quality and valuable service to the public.

"People don't talk in offices as colleagues. They don't want to be professional. You don't have to love each other. It's not a love affair, but just talk to each other. Have cup of tea and discuss work," he encouraged.

In addition, people should shed the negative habits that led to territorial behaviour and silo mentalities.

"People should not feel that they own offices, departments and divisions. Ministers think ministries are their property. We are fighting for territories. You don't hear me say 'My government'. Do you?

"I don't own the people, I don't own the government it's the Namibian government and Namibian people's, it's not mine. We should shy away from looking inwards and look outwards in order to foster a culture of teamwork," he stated.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia