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Removal of Msiska: couldn’t it have been done in a better way?

It has been announced by State House that Secretary to the Cabinet Dr Roland Msiska’s contract won’t be renewed.

And after vacating the office of Secretary to the Cabinet, he has been assigned to head the Zambia Atomic Agency.

Dr Msiska has got a month as Secretary to the Cabinet after which somebody else appointed by the President will act.

But how can you reduce the Secretary to the Cabinet to such a low role at the same time inform the nation he is no longer public service chief? How is Dr Msiska going to function in this remaining month? How is he going to execute his duties as Secretary to the Cabinet?

Why not just replace him seamlessly without that awkward announcement?

Why this reckless situation given the problems in the Civil Service of indiscipline, thefts, corruption and so on and so forth?

The Secretary to the Cabinet is the most senior civil servant in Zambia. He acts as the senior policy adviser to the President and Cabinet and as the Secretary to the Cabinet, responsible to all Ministers for the running of Cabinet and Government.

The Secretary to the Cabinet is responsible for all the civil servants of the various departments within government. This means that the Secretary to the Cabinet is responsible for leading the government department that provides administrative support to the President and Cabinet.

The responsibilities of the job vary from time to time and depend very much on the personal qualities of both the President and the Secretary to the Cabinet of the day. Generally, the true influence of the Secretary to the Cabinet extends far beyond administrative matters, and reaches to the very heart of the decision making process. For instance, the Secretary to the Cabinet is responsible for administering the Ministerial Code which governs the conduct of ministers – the rule book and questions of procedure for ministers. In this duty the Secretary to the Cabinet may be asked to investigate “leaks” within government, and enforce Cabinet discipline. In a democracy, this gives the unelected Secretary to the Cabinet some authority over elected ministers.

Questions have been raised about whether or not Dr Msiska qualifies to hold the position of Secretary to the Cabinet. Under Article 176 of the current Constitution of the Republic of Zambia,

the appointment is by the “President in consultation with the Civil Service Commission subject to ratification by the National Assembly”.

And Clause 3 of this Article states “a person qualifies to be appointed as Secretary to the Cabinet if that person has or had at least ten years experience as a Permanent Secretary or equivalent”.

Dr Msiska was first appointed and sworn into the position of Permanent Secretary – Public Service Division on October 10, 2011 and less than a year later, he was appointed and sworn in as Deputy Secretary to Cabinet on July 10, 2012 which makes it under two years’ service and experience both as Permanent Secretary or its equivalent. In February 2013, he was appointed and sworn in as Secretary to the Cabinet, which at that time, he may have qualified but the amended Constitution seems to have knocked him out of the position.

Dr Msiska is a qualified medical doctor with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees from the University of Zambia.

Having been appointed under the 1996 Republican Constitution which could have had no such provision as stipulated under Article 176 (3) and in recognition of the provisions of the transition Constitution of Zambia Act No. 1 of 2016 under Article 11 (1) which guides thus: “a person who is holding or acting in an office established by the Constitution immediately before the effective date [5 January, 2016] shall continue to hold or act in that office as if appointed to that office under the Constitution as amended…”

There are people who feel that although Dr Msiska is a nice person, his performance as Secretary to the Cabinet has not been that good. He has no spine and allowed many wrong things to be done. And as such he has destroyed the civil service and it’s time for him to go.

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