THE issue of good service delivery, sound public administration and leadership is no longer a matter of academic debate because these principles are now embedded in the new constitution.
It is thus very important to bring to life these constitutional principles and make them a reality in the governance of public institutions, local authorities and government departments.
The public has for a very long time been subjected to sub standard service delivery as well as bad treatment from public officials.
Many government institutions and agencies have become citadels of inefficiency, indolence and corruption.
However, the new constitution deals with all these issues right from the founding provisions which articulate the imperatives of good governance in state agencies and institutions and in particular “transparency, justice, accountability”.
Public institutions exist to serve the public, but many have become personal thiefdoms and cash-cows existing to be perpetually milked by “thief executive officers” and public maladministrators who treat the public as grovelling ingrates unworthy of quality service.
The founding principles of the constitution thus place a bar of excellence by demanding “justice, transparency, accountability and responsiveness” as a “must do” and “must have” for public institutions.
We thus have to ask ourselves whether our service providers such as Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority and Zimbabwe National Water Authority among a host of others — including local authorities — are responsive, accountable or transparent in their undertakings and delivery of services.
What about the passport office or National Social Security Authority?
Are these institutions responsive to the needs of the public and how accountable are they to the people they claim to serve?
More often than not they are quick to demand payments through rates, tariffs and other utility fees, but on the supply side they fail to deliver.
Chapter 9 Section 194 of the new constitution provides a reasonable framework to regulate good corporate governance, sound service delivery, public administration and leadership.
Quite clearly the constitution states that all public institutions, offices and government-controlled entities should strive to adhere to minimum standards of good corporate governance and responsible leadership including the following :
- High standards of professionalism and ethics.
- Efficient and economical use of resources.
- Public administration must be development oriented.
- Services must be provided impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias.
- People’s needs must be responded to within a reasonable time.
- Public administration must be accountable to the people.
- Transparency must be fostered by providing the public with timely and accessible information.
The public should measure the efficacy and effectiveness of public institutions against these constitutional parameters which provide a sound framework for state-citizen relations and an efficient supply and demand matrix in which service provider or public institution is responsive to the demands of the citizens (who demands the service).
Public enterprises many of whom have been in the media for all the wrong reasons have been an example of how not to run public institutions.
The constitution in Section 195 provides some principles of how these institutions should operate in order to ensure commercial viability and to abide by good corporate governance practice.
These principles include a transparent procurement processes. (This will help us to eliminate tenderpreuners).
I was especially thrilled to note that the new constitution regulates the conduct of public leaders and administrators going to the extent of extolling them to “demonstrate respect for the people and a readiness to serve them rather than rule them”.
The constitution then provides room for the enactment for legislation which will ensure that public institutions adhere to good corporate governance including a code of ethics for public officials compelling them to among other things declare their assets.
Parliament has to push this law through as a matter of the utmost urgency.