Lawyer and political activist Z. Allan Ntata who is a ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) operative and on now on the charm offensive as government’s critics has said the Public Service Reforms programme will not work, stressing the “noise” about it is “much like a clanging cymbal, a matter of form without substance.”
President Peter Mutharika appointed the Public Sector Reforms Commission (PSRC) in June last year chaired by Vice-President Saulos Chilima.
According to Mutharika the public service is the centre of his government operations and plays a key role in the social-economic and social well-being of the country.
And Chilima has argued that there is “ an overflow of political will” to implement the reforms.
But in his critique, Ntata noted that the most important areas that need reform are conspicuously missing from the agenda of the program.
“ For this reason alone, the program is, sad to say, empty and pointless, and not capable of achieving the desired results,” stated Ntata, a former legal advisor of late president Bingu wa Mutharika.
He explained: “In the Malawian setting, the political foundation that gives birth to the public service is the Constitution. This is the document that gives the country its political rights, as well as presenting the foundation upon which Malawian economic prosperity can be built.
“But the Constitution of Malawi is a flawed document that was forged in the heat of the anger and the vengefulness that was the multiparty movement, and fails to give the country the necessary platform upon which economic prosperity can be built.”
Ntata points out that any talk of reform must first address the constitution and include reviewing the country’s supreme laws so that it becomes an instrument that promotes democracy and good governance, and not hinder it by promoting a quasi one-party state kind of government administration that piles all responsibility and power in the presidency and allows the party in power to traverse laws with impunity and very little accountability.
“First and foremost, the Malawian Constitution puts politics above industry. This is a fundamental flaw that makes the Malawian political governance framework retrogressive and incapable of bringing commercial success to the country,” he argues.
Ntata continued: “If any public service reforms are to make any sense at all, such reforms must begin in the office of the presidency itself. Malawi’s political and administrative system needs to be reformed so that the presidency is able to tap fully into the advice of professionals that are capable of analysing policy and political issues dispassionately, rather than being advised mostly by political sharks that are simply thinking of advancing their own mostly financial agendas.”
He stated that it is “ridiculous”, for instance, that the constitution requires the appointment of the Director of the Anti-corruption Bureau to be approved by the Public Appointments Committee of parliament once it has been made by the president, and yet a serving director, having gone through such a rigorous appointment process can easily be dismissed at the President’s whim and fancy.
“The examples, however, are endless, and include offices such as those of Inspector General of Police, Director Of Public Prosecutions and the Auditor General just to mention a few
“Additionally, important appointments such as board members of various government organs and bodies, chief executive officers of statutory corporations and principle secretaries of government ministries are all at the whim and fancy of the Presidency, which we know for sure means being at the fancy of anyone from the ruling political party heavyweights, to the President’s personal assistants and even body guards.”
Furthermore, Ntata argues that it should “surely be useful” to have in a public service reform program, a drive to set out qualifications and terms of reference for all senior public service positions- what qualifications are required for these positions, and what the terms of reference and the expected deliverables are.
“ It surprises me to note that for positions of minister or principal secretary, we have individuals that have doctorates and individuals that have only MSCE certificates; individuals that have worked in the public service for over thirty years, and individuals for whom the appointment as principal secretary or minister was their first public service appointment,” he stated.
But political and administration analyst Mustaffa Hussein applauded the process of the reform fact-finding mission, saying it took a good approach in engaging people from various sectors.
And Henry Chingaipe in his research documents said the story of reforms in Malawi can be depressing, but it is not hopeless.
“It is becoming sufficiently clear that the missing link so far has been the recognition that PSR is not just a technocratic process: it is a profoundly political one too and needs both optimal technocratic and political leadership. The current wave of PSR in Malawi, being led by the Vice President, does not yet seem to be another ‘false start’. So, in the words of St Paul addressing the Galatians, ‘… let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart’.” Chingaipe stated.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :