If we have shortcomings, we should not be afraid to have them pointed out and criticised if we are in public service. Anyone, no matter who, may point out our shortcomings. If they are right, we should correct them. If what they are proposing will benefit the people, we should act upon it.
Many things may become baggage, may become encumbrances, if we cling to them blindly and uncritically. Having made mistakes, one might feel that, come what may, they are saddled with them and so become dispirited; if you have not made mistakes, you may feel that you are free from error and so become conceited. All such things become encumbrances or baggage if there is no critical awareness.
To be aware of one’s own mistakes and yet make no attempt to correct them is wrong and dangerous. There is no need to wait until problems pile up and cause a lot of trouble before trying to solve them.
We should never pretend to know what we don’t know, we should not feel ashamed to learn from the people. We must heed the correct views and act upon them. We should rid ourselves of all impotent thinking.
Taught by mistakes and setbacks, we should become wiser and handle our affairs better. It is hard for any political party, government or person to avoid mistakes, but we should make as few as possible.
Once a mistake is made, we should correct it, and the more quickly and thoroughly, the better.
It cannot be denied that things have not worked well in the arrangement of ministries and in the appointments made to these ministries. The intention was noble to have as few ministries as possible. This was intended to reduce government expenditure – a good thing in itself.
But a combination of the structures and personnel is important in the well-functioning of these ministries. Where there is high individual capacity and experience, it is easy to consolidate ministries and have them managed by very few people. The consolidation of some of our ministries made them too big to be managed by those who were appointed as ministers and permanent secretaries to such ministries.
Our ministries are very big institutions in themselves and a lot of care needs to be taken in consolidating them. And the quality and capacity of management of these ministries is not as we would like it to be. There are a lot of deficiencies. If people can’t manage small entities, how can we expect them to manage such gigantic institutions that were created out of amalgamations of ministries and departments?
In some of these ministries, the ministers and permanent secretaries had no time to do anything else other than to attend meetings and travel. Countries with highly efficient, effective and orderly public sectors can afford such consolidations but not us. Our levels of efficiency in the public sector are still very low.
A job which in other places can be done by one person, here we may need to split it among a number of people. This is a reality we can’t overlook or ignore.
There is a lot of work that needs to be done to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our public sector in order for the government to function properly. And as Michael Sata has correctly observed, we have many people in political leadership positions with very little or no experience at all. Some of these people occupy very high positions in government.
A critical examination of Michael’s government will reveal that some of the people occupying high public offices do not have the requisite experience required for them to perform their duties efficiently, effectively and in an orderly manner. By this, we are not in any way implying that such people shouldn’t have been appointed to those positions.
These are political positions and those who occupy them are elected representatives of the people and our Constitution, they are the right people to be there. But being elective and being competent are two different things.
And when appointing people and designing the structure of government, the quality of office bearers needs to be taken into account. Only those who are highly competent should be given highly complex tasks and big institutions to manage. Each one should be treated according to their abilities.
Some of our public officers are at sea, they can’t function efficiently and effectively in the offices they occupy. Not because they don’t want to work, but simply because they don’t have the requisites necessary for the job.
The problem is also compounded by some poor appointments that have been made to the civil service, especially at the level of permanent secretary. Some permanent secretaries are of no value to their ministers, they are not in a position to help them.
Where the politicians are of a low calibre, the civil service professionals should be of a very high calibre so that they can compensate the weaknesses of the politicians they are appointed to service.
But what is comforting in all this is that Michael is realising that some of the arrangements he thought would work well and save government a lot of money have not worked that well and is making corrections.
There is no need to hang on to something that is not working well. If mistakes are made, they should be promptly corrected. And Michael should not hesitate to undo anything that he has done that is not working well. And as we have stated before, in given conditions, a bad thing can lead to good results and good things to bad results.
The present problem is that many people consider it impossible to accomplish things which could be accomplished if they exerted themselves. Some of the arrangements Michael made could have actually worked and saved the government a lot of money if people were ready to exert themselves, to push themselves a little harder.
And what can one do in such situations? One cannot overstep the limitations imposed by the objective conditions; within these limitations, however, they can and must play a dynamic role in striving for better performance.
The stage of action must be built upon objective possibilities, but on that stage, they can direct the performance of many a drama, full of power and grandeur. Of course, no one should go off into wild flights of fancy, unwarranted by the objective situation or stretch for the impossible.
If complicated structures can’t work, one way of overcoming this is to simplify our organisations.
What Michael is doing is the right thing. If something is not working, quickly change it – nothing is cast in stone. In this way, he will overcome many difficulties and hardships. And so far, he has demonstrated immense courage, wisdom and initiative although some things have not come the way they were intended. It is part of life.
Every nation, big or small, has its strong and weak points. But we should resolutely, thoroughly, wholly and completely strive to get rid of our weaknesses. Things develop ceaselessly. Changes are a permanent part of life. Those who don’t change when conditions have changed perish.