By Ngor Arol Garang
February 19, 2011 (ABYEI) – Awut Deng Acuil, the minister for labour and public service in South Sudan said Saturday that her ministry has embarked on series of activities to improve public service delivery.
“We are working a lot and moving at fast rate in the ministry of labour and public service. We want to ensure everything is done as per the policy of the government of South Sudan on public service reform”, Awut told Sudan Tribune in an interview on Saturday.
The minister’s statement comes following public concerns that the system allows individual officials at ministries and institutions to recruit members of their families. She said that policies and safeguards that were already in place were not being enforced.
An official who works for an international organization, who also works for the South Sudan government, Garang Mawien Yak, in an interview with Sudan Tribune from Juba on Saturday, described some of the malpractices he has witnessed during his work.
“I am living in Juba and have witnessed a lot of government employees coming and leaving anytime they feel. They are working as if there are no rules. One wonders whether there are supervisors at work places because you see employees coming and leaving at their own times”, said Yak.
Yak said in Juba it is common for many workers in government institutions to leave their jackets hanging on their chairs pretending to be around when in fact they had absconded from work for personal activities.
He also claimed that some employees only attend the office for short periods resulting in an accumulation of work that is unattended to. Yak said this was “typical” and “fashionable” in government offices.
Some officials, he said, are in the habit of arriving late and taking four hour lunch breaks.
“This practice must be discouraged and our minister of labour and public service through line managers at various ministries needs to ensure there is improvement if our government [is] to deliver services to our people”, he said.
Yak said he had also witnessed some of these practices in other states in Sudan that he has visited as part of his work.
“In some places we have visited, the trend is still the same and little has changed much to the detriment of the public service reform. This is because majority of senior civil servants are too reluctant to enforced public service reform. Another thing is the change of mindset to the practice”.
“This is what is happening. I mean to say what is still lacking is a change of mindset among many workers to realize that the public service is one important sector of Government contributing to national development”, he said.
Concurring with his observation minister Awut, saying that the importance of improvement of service delivery through new strategies in government could not be overemphasized.
“In view of this, Government through Cabinet meeting instituted a programme in 2009 called the Public Service Reform Programme (PSRP). The main objective is to improve efficiency, cost-effectiveness and quality of service delivery to the South Sudanese people”, explained minister Awut.
“Some of the problems that had characterized the public service were outdated and rigid systems, processes and procedures and inappropriate structures. It was such structures that made some workers even more reluctant when executing their duties”.
There is an overall low morale and failure to recruit and retain qualified and experienced personnel because of poor salaries and conditions of service, she said.
“In order to address the low morale among workers, the PSRP had a target of improving individual and organizational performance through the installation of performance management systems”, she explained.
The leading member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) said the strategy was also to look at decentralizing and strengthening local government systems by developing and implementing policy and legal frameworks.
“These reforms in the public service were aimed at reviving this important component of government. However, things did not go as planned. An independent evaluation of the impact of the reforms conducted in 2007 and 2008 reviewed that such efforts had little or no impact on the quality of public service delivery”, explained the minister.
Awut said the evaluation teams strongly recommended that there be an adoption of an enhanced and integrated approach to reforming the public service. This has seen the birth of an Institutional Assessment and Organization Development approach.
She said the Institutional Assessment and Organization Development approach is a new approach which will be worked out as a pilot programme in the ministries of education, labour and internal affairs.
The top government official said the approach is scheduled to be rolled out to states and county centers when fully operational.
Awut said that her ministry will establish a management and development department to work with the ministries that are implementing the pilot project. The programme will be rolled out to all the ministries in South Sudan by the end of 2012.
“The task for this department will provide for a comprehensive analysis of an organization as a system using a variety of analytical tools and techniques. At a recent meeting held at the ministry, it came to light that the pilot programme will ascertain its efficacy before it can be applied across the entire public service”.
“In the ministry of education alone, some of the objectives will be to improve the management and quality of education service delivery, thereby contributing to the development of human resource in the country”, she explained, adding the ministry will launch the intervention and at the same time sensitize the political and administrative leadership.
She also added her ministry has been spearheading the implementation of the PSRP which had little overall impact on the quality of public service delivery.
“Let me emphasize that cultural reform is crucial to successful reforms in the public service. It is about the identity of public servants; whether we see ourselves as simply delivering outputs or resolving national problems; whether our first impulse when looking at a public issue is to see processes or see possibilities,” she says.
Ayut said she has learnt during deliberations that cultural reform is about the fundamental shift in the way public servants think about themselves. This includes how they go about their work and commitment to national development and other areas related to development through the public service.
Ministry of education undersecretary George Achor in a separate interview with Sudan Tribune says the importance of institutional assessment and organization development cannot be overemphasized as these are the cornerstones of repositioning of an organization.
He says the new integrated approach will help better public service delivery in government ministries.
“It is also envisaged that the ministry of education will use this new strategy to identify bottlenecks and challenges the institution faces”, said the official adding that all the operational areas will be examined starting with the ministry structure; systems and strategies developed to meet goals.
Some of the other areas to be improved are the staffing levels and skills; style of leadership and running of the core business, he said urging the ministry staff to commit themselves fully as the undertaking is huge.
“As official from the ministry of education we will ensure that the exercise is given the required support in terms of resources and other logistics. On your part as stakeholders, you will diligently be required to co-operate with the change agents and mid-staff to carry out the exercise,” he said.
“The challenges the PSRP experienced during implementation should be a wake-up call for the new approach to succeed. There is a need for concerted effort, especially from staff in the ministries, for the successful implementation of such strategy when it is rolled out next year”, he commented.