• June 16th, 2019
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National integrity calls for introspection


New Era carried an article on these pages by Ms Paulina N. Moses dealing with elements of national integrity pertaining from personal discipline. This article, albeit restricted to the civil service, was instructive in more ways than one. Paulina Moses decries the challenge of uncontrolled ill-spending in the government by civil servants and she argues that this trend has by far outdone politicians. Moses holds that civil servants must modify their ways and change their behavior with regard to public spending. She concludes with a quotation from journalist Manasseh Azune that says: “The sad thing is that dedicated people who are not prepared to conform do not often last in politics or public service. There is more incentive to do the wrong things than to be good.” I cannot agree more with Moses and I contend that we seem to be dealing with a concern larger than we, perhaps, care to admit. This concern has to do with the absence of integrity in our public, semi-state as well as private institutions, and this concern encapsulates both integrity with regard to the application of state resources as well as the disposition of the civil servants in their provision of service to the public. Latter attitude also pervades many private sector institutions. During his reign as founding Prime Minister of Namibia, President Hage Geingob, called a national consultation on integrity and the quest for professional discipline in managing the business of state. What I found revealing was that then Prime Minister Geingob had invited a woman from Uganda by the name Meriam Matembe, who at the time was Minister of Ethics for Uganda. Minister Matembe shared a sobering experience with the conference. She said that corruption in Africa was real and it would take generations to eradicate, more so because there was overwhelming reluctance and limited commitment on the part of national leadership in Africa to contain practices that were not in tandem with adherence to integrity. Focusing specifically on Uganda, Minister Matembe said: “In Uganda when it comes to corruption, every Ugandan wants to fill his space and grab as much as possible because no one wants to be left behind in this quest for survival.” I found Matembe’s statement instructive, not for the fact that she revealed what was happening in Uganda, but for the fact that she was prepared to lay the blame at the doorstep of African leadership. Formal political institutions, in this case political parties and their governments, are perceived to be supreme culprits in the charge of mismanaging state resources. Regarding legal institutions, we hear more often that seldom will case number X proceed in court because the file of the accused has gone missing. Semi-state institutions, we hear of missing millions with no culprits, or the suspects are brought forward and in the end released because of limited evidence after the case has dragged on for years. And civil society, we read of audits being abandoned because the submitted reports do not add up to logic. And so the conundrum rages on and before we know we are in the new financial year with its new ramifications. Stories abound on development aid from some European country that did not reach the intended beneficiaries. The story persisted until the said country saw it fit to commission an audit that confirmed the rumours. This audit report decorates the reception of the embassy of the said country and it is business as usual. Years back my sister and I listened to the radio while driving. The radio carried a report about missing millions at some semi-state institution. My sister said to me that she had made up her mind that she would not steal ten or twenty thousands of dollars from the government. But if she came across one million and above she would take it all. When I asked why, she said, because the mood in the country is such that the person to come after the one who had not taken the money, would take all the money. “What is the point in wasting money when you know that it would disappear anyway?” she asserted. This in itself served as a rude awakening for me. My sister is bent on stealing money if she came across such and I could not sustain an argument with her because her argument was deeply rooted in logic: chances are if she did not steal the one million, then the next person would take it all. Evidently this mentality pervades our society and serves as breeding ground for the absence of integrity, as people in low and high places seem bent on taking it all like my sister is. The difficulty in all these matters is the challenge of waning integrity or better still, the diminished sense of ownership, the feeling that state resources are ours and the propensity that we must protect it, because the future of this nation, of our children, hinges on this country continuing to be resourceful. The question is: where does it all start? Does it start from the government because legislators-cum-politicians are perceived to be the supreme thieves leading the corruption drive, from the implementers of law and order because criminals remain at large and we must also grab because after all that is what everybody is doing, or from civil servants because they manipulate the system in order to get away with state funds in the form of travel and subsistence allowances? In the final analysis, is the government in charge of state resources or is it a matter of the winner takes all, as my sister wants the nation to believe? Namibia faces a challenge larger than we care to admit and our assertions that corruption is not yet endemic in Namibia do not hold true. It is against this backdrop that I agree with Moses in her frustration with the civil service and I contend that the mismanagement of the civil service is only a smokescreen, for they are able to get away with what they do because they lack supervision. They lack supervision because someone who should control their ways could also be benefitting the same way. And the racket continues all the way. Paulina decries the problem of a multitude of workshops intended to maximize on subsistence and travelling allowances, when these workshops do not seem to add value to the skills base of the beneficiaries. Again, that can only point to the absence of efficient supervision. When a training workshop is scheduled or advertised, a serious head of department ought to establish to satisfaction the extent to which the said workshop will be of value to the intended beneficiaries in her department. Also, the appropriate approach to these endless training trips is that each participant must be exposed to skills auditing prior to attending. That is the only way that these workshops could make sense, because those attending could prove identified need and inclination to benefit. Otherwise, all attend and afterwards there is no mechanism to gauge the extent to which there was value addition in skillfulness, only for the colleagues to return to office and await yet a string of workshops for the same reasons. We need to re-inspect the premise upon which we have based our planning to date. There are no shortcuts to progress. Bob Kandetu Columnist
New Era Reporter
2018-03-23 10:33:10 1 years ago

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