Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration hon. Dr Margaret N. Nasha, at the Botswana Public Service Annual Convention

source: Republic of Botswana (23/8/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 23 of 2009
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"


[Salutations]...Guests Ladies and Gentlemen Ke a dumedisa

1. Having been in this job of Minister in charge of the Public Service for a little over three months now, I welcome the opportunity to address this important gathering of senior civil servants. May I also at the outset, express my gratitude to the invited guests which include Ministers, members of the UN family, and the guest keynote speaker from the Republic of Namibia Mr. Kapofi and his team for honouring our invitation.

2. The Botswana Public Service Annual Convention is a very useful forum as it brings together public officers across ministries,
departments and local authorities, not only to share ideas, experiences and challenges that they encounter, but also to celebrate success stories of service delivery.

3. I note from the objectives of the convention that the intention is to widen and deepen awareness on issues of productivity and quality; to reflect on performance of the public service, and in the process identify opportunities for improvement; to consider aspects of the service which require reform and discard those which have become liabilities.

4. Director of Ceremony, it is absolutely imperative, that we should continue to raise awareness about the importance of productivity, and we should never stop until we see change for the better in the area of service delivery. We should learn lessons from the example of HIV and AIDS, where despite the high level of awareness about the pandemic and the risks that come with certain practices, there remains a challenge of translating that awareness into positive behaviour change.

6. Furthermore, with attrition and recruitment taking place all the time, including at senior level in the public service, there is always (and will always be) a cohort of new comers who need exposure, as well as reinforcement lessons for those who are somewhat slow in getting it.

7. Equally important is the fact that you will continue to take time to celebrate success, and share best practices, by recognizing and rewarding ministries and individuals who have contributed significantly to the productivity improvement endeavour. I cannot over emphasize the value of recognition, especially that the public service is not known for creating and providing incentives for its high achievers. This should create a necessary competitive and yet healthy environment for innovation, initiative and drive. Gone are the days when it was sufficient to be part of the flow, when the public service was a subject of ridicule - a destination and home for those who had nowhere else to go. You must continue to reject this notion by your deeds.

8. Director of Ceremony, the theme for this convention is "Transformational Leadership for Customer Focused Delivery: From Rhetoric to Consolidation and Effective Execution". This theme is closely related to last year's theme, which was, Visionary Leadership as a core stimulus to high-performance workforce today. I am delighted that both emphasise the central role of leadership in organisational performance.

9. The Permanent Secretary to the President and his team of organizers deserve commendation for focusing on leadership as a key determent of organizational success. It is now widely accepted that whatever the nature of the business - private enterprise; non-profit undertakings; political, religious and sports formations; and public service; leadership is absolutely pivotal.

10. I am dwelling on this point PSP to reinforce your own conviction that the role of leadership on the future of the public service cannot, and should not be a passing fad. One convention, one workshop, one speech will never be enough. I dare say that if you were faced with the choice of focusing on this leverage alone for the next decade; the rewards in productivity would be considerable.

11. This year's theme also underscores reform initiatives being undertaken within the civil service to groom effective and visionary leaders. It also recognizes government's concerted efforts to improve service delivery as a response to public calls for quality service. These reforms are aimed amongst others, at improving processes, and developing our human capital.

12. Director of Ceremony, I think it is important for us to keep harping on this whole issue of transformational leadership. We do need transformational leadership ladies and gentlemen. We need leaders who inspire and motivate others to serve with distinction. We need public officers who live the public service charter, which aspires to achieve:

(a) due regard for the public interest;
(b) neutrality;
(c) accountability;
(d) transparency;
(e) freedom from corruption;
(f) and due diligence

13. A culture of fear, insecurity and marginalization, which often manifests itself in the form of endless staff complaints, is an indication that transformational leadership is either not at work, or is lacking.

14. To further illustrate the relevance and importance of the theme of this conference, let me remind you that just two weeks ago, Parliament passed a P52 billion NDP10. This plan has 136 programmes and projects which must be implemented, if we are to achieve our goals of alleviation and eradication of poverty, employment creation, improvement of the health of the nation, skills development for a competitive economy, facilitation of private sector growth, diversification of the economy and sustainable development.

15. NDP 10 plan was approved in the context of a Global financial and economic crisis worldwide. And worse still, our returns from the mineral sector, especially diamonds, continue to dwindle. So serious is the situation, that a deficit of P31.9 billion is expected during NDP10.

16. In the face of these daunting challenges, a range of measures need to be deployed if we are to achieve the goals that we have set ourselves in the plan. Government will continue to create an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive; to diversify the economy both within the mineral sector and outside; to create and support the development of relevant skills for the economy; as well as invest in the use of ICT and research.

17. Of immediate relevance to this convention is that the one measure which is partly within your control as leaders is the productivity of the public service. When I submitted the Open Democratic and Accountable Nation chapter of NDP10, I made an undertaking, on your behalf that public administration will strive to be efficient and effective. I hope that you will not let me down.

18. Talking about NDP10, I think we are off to a good start. One of the features of NDP10, which I must say was well received by Parliament, is its results based approach, linking the budget to Vision 2016 outcomes. Another crucial addition is the introduction of a monitoring and evaluation element to complete what has otherwise been good planning over the decades. That too was well received by the National Assembly.

19. I highlight these aspects of the plan, ladies and gentlemen, to make the point, that a good plan has indeed been crafted. The political and executive leadership has drawn the road map. What remains is delivery, and this will be dependent upon your.

20. Clearly, for this to come to pass, the public service leadership must be possessed of the requisite competencies commensurate with the challenges of the 21st century. We will know the quality of this leadership when we see a combination of strategic thinking; full and productive engagement of all staff members; service with integrity; and a single minded focus on delivery as though nothing else matters.

21. Knowing as we do, Director of ceremony, that we cannot rely solely on the hope that leaders in the public service are born with leadership qualities and competencies, Government commits considerable resources in a variety of courses offered at various levels of the hierarchy, both locally and abroad. Two programmes, one on Transformational coaching and the other on Systems Thinking are currently running. These are crucial interventions as they provide the tools of trade for getting results out of others.

22. This brings me to the results of the latest Customer Satisfaction Survey (2009) which shows that, compared to 2005; there is an improvement in overall customer satisfaction with public service. Twenty seven percent (27%) of people surveyed rated the service as excellent or very good, while 56% said it was good, an overall 83% satisfaction rate. But this has to improve, because in today's world, the category worth talking about is one of excellence.

23. As leaders gathered here today, you should be concerned, as the survey shows that your subordinates are not impressed. Through the survey, they speak of poor communication, poor subordinate-supervisor relations, and inadequate participation and involvement in the affairs of their organizations. And many are busy looking outside for opportunities. You have your work cut out for you.

24. Ladies and Gentlemen, your discussions here today are not only important for delivering NDP10, but also for making the country more competitive globally. There are far too many regions of the world, let alone countries, competing for foreign direct investment. When a report of international repute such as the Global Competitiveness Report consistently shows that amongst our key challenges is poor work ethic, we make the choice of destination for investors easy by taking ourselves out of the competition.

25. As we deliberate on productivity, let us not lose sight of the fact that Government is the biggest employer in the country, and our practices and work ethics are of significant influence in the rest of the economy. We cannot offer first class service when there are still traces of corruption, incidents of wastage of public resources and inefficiency in managing such resources. Public resources worth millions of Pula get wasted on abandoned buildings and vandalized equipment; every year. We need to work together, to right these wrongs in the coming years.

26. Finally, Director of ceremony, to point out areas which need improvement is not to negate what good there is. Many more people
including external commentators, continue to speak well of the Public Service of Botswana.

27. Let me therefore conclude on a positive note and say that you have reached a point of no return on your journey to excellence. And it is on that positive note that I have the honour to declare the 2009 Public Service Convention officially open. I thank you for your attention.

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