VERNON Mwaanga says a transparent and open public service system promotes public trust.
Mwaanga stated that the public service plays a major and indispensable role in any genuine democracy in terms of delivering service to ordinary people.
“Once upon a time, Zambia had a professional and highly respected public service, which was not involved in partisan politics. Sadly, over the years, the public service has become too highly politicised and the appointment of party cadres into the civil service, particularly those without the necessary qualifications, has made the situation even worse. Most of these appointments are not made on merit, let alone the ability of particular individuals to diligently perform their duties,” he said, in a statement. “The appointments are made on the basis of their personal loyalty to the Head of State or the party in power or both. Consequently, service delivery to the people of Zambia, has suffered immeasurably.”
Mwaanga said in a democracy, it was the civil service which was supposed to provide continuity, because it was supposed to be politically neutral, to serve whatever new government assumes office.
He said responsiveness and accountability of the public service to members of the public they serve was central to the process of good governance.
Mwaanga said responsiveness and accountability subsume efficient delivery of services to the people.
He said it was extremely important to make the public service accountable to the people they served, who were their masters.
Mwaanga said the public service must account and be held answerable to elected officials through parliamentary oversight.
“A transparent and open public service system promotes public trust in the public service. A close examination of how governments operate in democratic societies, reveals that they have internal, external and self-regulatory institutions of control. Internal institutions include civil service rules and regulations, financial regulations, training and education, disciplinary procedures which are fair and exhaustive, internal management audits and inspectorates,” he said.
“External institutions include the Legislature, Public Accounts Committees, Office of the Auditor – General, the Investigator-General also known as the Ombudsman, the Judiciary, Public Service Commissions and other specialised independent commissions, such as the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Human Rights Commission. Others external institutions include a vibrant independent but responsible media.”
Mwaanga said the public service must be accountable to the citizens as it promotes trust and confidence in public officials, enhances the authority and legitimacy of governments and encourages openness and transparency in governments.
He said doing so also enabled public officials to be aware of the needs and demands of the people they served, made public officials accountable for their actions and forces public officials to address citizens’ complaints and grievances in a timely manner.
“It encourages public participation and involvement in matters of governance and it helps to create awareness among citizens that they have a stake in their government. Citizens must feel a sense of ownership. We should not create a situation where citizens begin to fear their public servants be they in administration, the police, the security forces or other arms of government. It should be the public servants who must fear but preferably respect the people they serve,” said Mwaanga.