Last week, the Office of the President and Cabinet launched what it touted as two “ground-breaking” policies—the Malawi Public Sector Reforms Policy and the Malawi Public Service Management Policy.
The launch followed approval by the Peter Mutharika Cabinet in February this year. The policies will run for five years from 2018 during which they are expected to provide Malawi with “a comprehensive and coherent framework for the creation of a results-oriented, high-performing civil service by 2022 that facilitates positive transformation of the economy and the country’s modernisation.”
The reforms policy in particular focuses on the public sector holistically covering a broad array of areas, including public service management, public sector recapitalisation, public sector restructuring and institutionalisation as well as public sector programming aimed at achieving transformation.
The reforms policy also contains a set of 10 values that public servants should subscribe to in the course of implementing reforms.
These values are: accountability, transparency, excellence, objectivity, impartiality, integrity, loyalty, social justice, professionalism, and selflessness. These are all important values—very lofty I might add, but still commendable.
For now, however, I am particularly tickled by the value of impartiality, which states that “Civil servants shall be non-partisan and politically neutral in the discharge of their duties and carry out their responsibilities without prejudice or favour and provide the government of the day with timely and honest advice based on available evidence.”
Now, the man in charge of overseeing this policy at the moment is Lloyd Muhara, the current Chief Secretary to the Government.
Muhara earlier this year issued a memo in which he warned public servants against actively participating in active party politics. If they so wish, he wrote, they should resign.
Good move as it is in line with public service regulations. But then some senior public servants started to actively and publicly getting involved in politics—with some campaigning for and winning positions in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) during their elective convention. They never resigned before and never did so after.
Muhara remained mum. Then people started asking why the Chief Secretary was not acting on his memo. Months later after his memo, he acted.
Muhara fired those public servants who were actively involved in partisan politics, but it was only those who were participating in opposition party active politics, especially those in the United Transformation Movement (UTM), grouping that is promoting the presidential candidacy of Vice-President Saulos Chilima who, after dissing DPP, want to challenge President Peter Mutharika next May.
But Muhara has spared those who are party cadres of the ruling DPP. Is that the Chief Secretary’s idea of impartial decision-making? Note that Muhara himself has signed off on these values, but is he walking the talk?
The way I see it, he is raping the very own values he wants those working for him to guide their work, who will follow them? Muhara also seems to have a funny interpretation of the 7th value—loyalty.
This value states that “Public servants shall be loyal to the Government of Malawi by helping the government of the day to effectively deliver public services and development to the people of Malawi. Public Servants shall, therefore, be faithful and committed to policies and programmes of the government of the day regardless of their political, religious, social or cultural beliefs in order to serve the public interest.”
Does the “government of the day” mean the same as “the ruling party of the day” in the mind of Muhara? Is that why he has spared those public servants actively supporting and promoting DPP while penalising those publicly sympathetic to UTM, for example? Is that why government forced Eric Chapola—the respected corporate executive—to resign as chairperson of the Malawi Revenue Authority even when Treasury itself admitted he was a high performer at the tax collector?
Was he forced out because his sister—former first lady Callista Mutharika—stopped supporting the ruling party of the day?
Now, it is curious that Chapola was pushed out the same day reform and public service management policies and the “values” therein were launched. Will these policies ever be implemented? Have we just wasted millions of kwachas developing documents that are already being violently molested and torn apart the week they are launched?
For make no mistake, probably the chief reason reforms fail is the combination of the following axis of evil: Nepotism, favouritism and political patronage.
These are the real values that the DPP follows and should replace those 10 ideals in the reforms policy document that, with this administration executing it, is not even worth the paper it is printed on.