Performance contracts for civil servants could fix service delivery

Written by on April 19, 2019

THE announcement by the Public Service Management Division permanent secretary, Boniface Chimbwali, that government will soon introduce performance based contracts for civil servants, is a commendable move.

We welcome the decision because it would not only improve the efficiency in the public service but also enhance service delivery because civil servants would put in great effort and commitment to their work than is the situation at present.

Apart from a few committed individuals in a countable number of departments, civil servants in most government offices conduct their work in a laissez faire manner. Everyone will tell you that the officers in fact appear to respect or prioritise rest times, tea time and lunch hour, to attending to the clients.

Attending to clients or providing a service to people seem to be a by the way activity to officers in some public offices and they undertake it like they were literally being forced to do it. It is in fact this very laissez faire attitude by most public officers that leads to delays in getting work done timely in public offices.

Processes which would normally last a day or two to get done, would take two weeks or even a month because either the officer responsible is rarely in the office, reports for work late or simply creates lame excuses in order to create time to pursue personal errands.

It is not a secret that moonlighting or provate jobs (PJs) are more of a priority than provision of normal services to the public. The workers know, after all, that they will still receive a salary at the month end and that their jobs were secure- whether they performed or not and whether they delivered in their work or not.

We therefore agree with the permanent secretary that implementation of performance based contracts in the civil service will, without doubt, provide the much sought after solution to improving service delivery by government.

We are not saying that the public service does not have committed and serious-minded workers. There are there and numerous of them. But our concern and worry is that these hardworking individuals are being frustrated and distracted from providing their best service by the many other public officers with a laissez faire attitude.

We commend those serious minded and committed civil servants because they are in fact the reason why the government is still able to deliver some level of service. They are the only hope and the only reason we still have some faith in the civil service.

We commend the planned introduction of performance-based contracts in the public service because, in our view, workers everywhere, ought to work with a result-mindset and culture. The government, like private sector companies, can only properly and effectively deliver on its obligations if results and targets guide it.

The same goes with the individual workers. Their measure of performance lies in their ability to deliver specific results and meet set targets. It is these same targets that the workers should also be accessed on for performance to determine whether they were efficient, competent or not.

As Mr Highvie Hamududu, the president for Party for National Unity (PNU), rightly observed, government cannot simply continue to be putting money into a bottomless pit without being mindful or sure whether it is making progress on its developmental efforts or not.

We agree with Mr. Hamududu that the performance system for civil servants, if introduced, will help improve government’s delivery of services to citizens and improve the overall efficiency of the public service, and that would help save resources in the long run.

“I think what the PS is saying is a good thing if properly implemented. You cannot continue to give people money to spend when they are not producing results,” he said.

“The issue of performance contracts for government employers must be demanded by all citizens. Every public worker must produce results and that should be the culture if service delivery has to be improved,” said Mr. Hamududu.

Performance based contacting is ideal when trying to up performance standards as it is a results-oriented contracting method that focuses on the outputs, quality of performance or outcomes and it is tied to the salary level and contract payments.
The nature of the contractor’s or employee’s performance or achievement of specific standard of performance, will determine the renewal of the contract or its extension. The same is applicable with jobs.
It is an undisputable fact that a culture of continuous performance assessment is essential for growing an organisation because it enables the institution and its employees increase efficiency and effectiveness in their operations.
Continuous performance assessment in fact determines the very rhythm of the work systems and performance of organisations, and the public service should never be an exception.

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