Tackling administrative decrepitude must be priority for next gov’t

Dear Editor,

In October of last year, having discerned the inevitability of general elections, I shared with your readers a note on the expected quality and content of the discourse/manifestoes we are to be assailed with by the contenders. We expect higher and deeper than we have been inveigled with in the past. It would be the first declaration and proof of competence of a new or renewed government.

My letter of October 14, enumerated some general categories of the important reorganisations that any new government should undertake. It mentions the following –tax reform, investment body reform, law reform, parliamentary and constitutional reforms … but commenced with “administrative reform.” Indeed, it treats as a priority the relief that could be offered by administrative reform-a renewal of a wide category that would embrace its procedures, functions, distribution of roles and powers, human resources management, time- and- motion… and the necessary modernisation. Some types of reformation improve the lot and lives of the politicians – for example constitutional/parliamentary- but grant little relief to the wandering population and those toiling in the stark wilderness of the administration.

In short the battering we receive at the hands of overworked clerks, under-resourced mid-level personnel and managers/leaders occupying positions for which their only preparation has been intoning a hymn in praise of the power-that-be, has got to stop. It means new ministries if necessary and a re-configuration of the administrative clusters with a total re-thinking of service delivery to the people who will again put a government in power. It has to be reconceptualised and the “corporate culture” transformed.

I see that there is agreement on the need for change. There appeared in the months that followed mine, a letter from Chris Ram numbering some reform areas, and the APNU just came out with a ten- point promissory note. A public relations plus, except that it needed to re-focus on matters of immediate importance and urgency to the common victim. The list I read betrays a politician’s self-preoccupation and does not put sufficient emphasis on the service delivery aspects and show the “voter” how he will benefit. The APNU declaration of intent, needed, foreseen and laudable, is disconcerting in this sense. It ignores the type of reform that will rescue us from the reality that we are living with administrative and public service systems conceived and manned for a population such as we had in the nineteen fifties and sixties.

Everthing is undermanned and under-managed. Many people’s reason for fleeing the country was not, as Mr “Aloo Ball” the New York pollster declares in his deliria, about getting daal or flour. It was the administrative decrepitude of the place as the universe took off into unprecedented technological growth in the eighties and nineties of the last century. We cannot remain primitives because some aspirants to leadership positions have not made the mental transit into the modern world. Ours is a condition of underdevelopment common in the third world and characteristic of many of our instuitutions. Sadly, it is a declaration of the competence and level culture of our leadership. It needs to change with whatever government emerges on May 11, 2015.

The lines in the licence and passport offices have to disappear and our police supervisors given the means to offer better public service. The hospitals must improve emergency room/admission and capacity. The foreign service has to be improved by the establishment of a ministry, or division/department dedicated to overseas residents. It exists in Morocco with a smaller percentage of the population living abroad. It is unthinkable that the embassies and consulates abroad do not, with the exception of New York perhaps, behave as though conscious of the fact that half the population resides abroad. London does not have a Euro currency account for payment by citizens for services even though it serves euro currency countries. Brussels does not do registration of foreign births, even though this is a basic and natural function of consulates. One speaks to the unfortunates toiling in these places and realises that they are aware of the nonsensicality of the situation but remain prisoners of old rules.

We need to be able to access paperwork like birth certificates rapidly and efficiently. Computerisation needs to be done. I understand we have received grants and aid to finance the change already in the past. NIS needs to cease being the stressful scandal that it is. Nowhere else in the region does such a shame persist.

The news we are getting from the politicians needs, at this time and for the generation looking and listening, to extend concept of self-identity to include a self-image of a progressive, innovative and modern people. Not the depressing hags that seem to people our political field. If the past experience has taught us anything, it is that we should also beware the sirens screaming about “democracy” or “freedom of expression” or, in the past “one man one vote” and “racial salvation” whilst simply and merely waiting to get into office to take bribes, help the racial bretheren, and finance the family. The ant-like and spontaneous generation of the hordes of sycophants, the chorus of race baiters, the saddening spectacles of the semi-crazed loose on the stinking streets…none of this will go unless we impose upon our politicians higher standards. We begin by asking for a better manifesto. …

As I wrote in October “In other words, the manifestos, as they emerge, have to address these issues in a serious and detailed manner for any party to be taken seriously. Besides the usual generalisations, a timeline needs to be set for each project of reform and committees with citizen involvement set up to pilot the projects. To function as if we are still in the fifties and sixties is not only to insult ourselves (the predecessors were even better in some ways) but it is to fail to continue the work started by our families a generation or two ago.”

Yours faithfully,

Abu Bakr

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