Malawi: Political administration in context of public service reforms

It is a fact that for the first time in Malawi’s history of attempting to reform the Public Sector, this time around the drive has massive momentum like a train in motion.

President Mutharika his deputy Saulos Chilima who chair the reforms committe.- ... - Pic by Stanley Makuti
President Mutharika his deputy Saulos Chilima who chair the reforms committe.- … – Pic by Stanley Makuti

However, with the political government system that as a country we follow and practice it is important to underscore and put under the microscope the need to give more insights into the political-administrative interface.

Miller and McTavish (2009) have defined Political- Administrative interface as the intersection of leadership roles within a tradition of dichotomous relationship between political and administrative realms. The political realm is the presidency and ministers which form the cabinet. The administrative realm is the public service composed of civil service and parastatals.

The political realm is headed by the president who by Malawi laws is elected every five years. The administrative realm is headed by the Chief Secretary to Government. The administrative realm is thus the hardware part of government while the political realm is the software that can be changed from time to time. Both the political and administrative parts form the executive but with different roles as shall be expounded in the following paragraphs.

The political realm is voted to power on the basis of Campaign Manifesto and therefore works hard to implement such campaign promises within the period that they are in power. Successful implementation is not only to fulfil such promises but also to sell themselves for the next election. The role of the political realm is to make policy decisions and directions.

These decisions and directions are forwarded to the administrative realm which is the operational arm of the Executive. Thus the role of the administrative realm is to implement policy decisions and directions and offer professional advice for effective and efficient implementation of such decisions.

The importance of a professional administrative realm (public service) cannot be over emphasized. In the political realm of the political-administrative interface, there is high degree of heterogeneity as members of the cabinet come from diverse academic and professional backgrounds. The administrative realm thus plays a key role in providing sound advice that enables fulfilment of policy agenda.

Now why is it important to discuss the political-administrative interface in the context of public service reforms? There are a number of reasons and they include the following:

People of Malawi, like any other country where the Vice President is not appointed, employ two people, the President and Vice President. For the reason that the two cannot be everywhere, they hire employees who constitute public service and are called public servants.

These public servants are positioned at central and local government levels purely to champion and implement policy agenda of the political realm. This explains why when service delivery is satisfactory, citizens give credit to the political realm and not the administrative realm. Likewise when service delivery is poor, people vent their anger on those they employed (the presidency) and not the public servants who implement.

Secondly, in political pluralism, misappropriation of public funds and any sabotage by the administrative realm on decisions as well as speed of implementing decisions from the political realm is de-campaigning the sitting political leadership and inadvertently campaigning for the opposition political parties that then are viewed as alternative.

Thirdly and finally, professional, efficient and effective public service gives appropriate genetic make up to institutions and shapes the face of government. This is achieved through offering sound advice to the political realm (professionalism), getting better outcomes at minimal cost (efficiency) and ensuring that development objectives are achieved within planned time (effectiveness).

The three reasons (and there could be more) above relate to the approach the public service reforms have taken. The Commission ensured that reform agenda is a shared will by allowing Malawians to propose reform issues while the Commission simply provided strategic leadership.

The presidency has repeatedly stated there is excess supply of political will which was widely blamed for failure of previous reforms. This is to allow growth of professionalism in public service. Additionally, the political realm continuously engages the administrative realm to ensure that systems and procedures reign supreme to personal interests.

Public Service Leadership emanates from understanding that leaders (President and Vice President; Members of Parliament and Councillors) are employees of their electorates. They apply for the job through political campaign using Manifesto.

Employers (the electorate) decide on whom to hire through vote and offer a five years contract that is renewed subject to satisfactory performance. Thus, a political leader, just as any other employee aims at satisfying the employer and avoids having the job not renewed on the basis of underperformance.

The Cabinet as senior management team running affairs of the state cannot be everywhere and do everything. They implement their decisions through public service. A corrupt free, professional and effective public service is desired to achieve results that satisfy citizens and develop the country.

There is need for every institution at every level to identify their reforms areas and implement them. Each level of authority should initiate reforms. That is the way we shall obtain the desired future.

At the base of all this is the individual. What is your role in seeing a reformed Malawi? When will you rephrase the question, what will government do for me…to – what will I do for my government?

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6 years ago

such an excellent intellectual treatise does not deserve silly comments like the ones below from hateful tribalistic party gringos. In fact, the less comments that this piece has received shows the lack of grasp of higher things that many who visit NyasaTimes have. And so, let no dunderheads comment. This is a thoughtful and development conscious read from a great mind to other great minds.

6 years ago

I have enjoyed reading this article, it is well written and eye opening

Alick Kalima
Alick Kalima
6 years ago

Well articulated.Bravoooo


I am now packing my things My Tax should be chewed by other country who can give me bread and butter tsalani A Malawi ndikafera komko sindidzabweranso byeeeee

6 years ago

Chipani ichi tatopa nacho Mulungu achichose.

angoni apaphata
angoni apaphata
6 years ago

Ndimalizitsa kuwerenga ndikadzuka. Good night people

matako a pusi
matako a pusi
6 years ago

I can visualize the reforms really happening in the spiritual realm on my ipad as advised by my fake prophet bushiri

Greencardless Malawian

I will do nothing for this government because it was not chosen by the people. Or if i have to take the example of the government i am asked to support, then i will rig my way through my service reform. Thank you!

APM's advisor on gondolosi and nsatsi

Ife a DPP Public service reform yativuta komano sitinganene kuti yakanika Chakwela ndi gulu lake angatinyoze. Izi zatikanika poti tiri ndi anthu omwe anatithandiza kukopa anthu ndi kubela chisankho,anthu amenewa olo akulephela ntchito sitingawachotse,aliponso ena olo chuma cha chisakuyenda bwino ndi kukhala nsaza ngati momwe chililimu ma suporters kapena ndti DPP moral yokha ku america ipita.

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