From arbitrary rule to systemic solutions
One of the major limitations afflictingthe bulk of public sector institutions in Ethiopia is the failure to put in place a system which guides their operation and behavior. They are plagued by the propensity to act with lack of forethought rather than discharging their responsibilities in a systematic manner. The laws the government enacts are no exception and are attended by a host of systemic shortcomings. Questions pertaining to their rationale as well as how and when they are to be implemented are not properly deliberated upon with the relevant stakeholders prior to their adoption resulting in chaos. An institution is bound to flounder if it does not go about carrying out its duties systematically.
Regardless of how critically important they may be, the government’s policies and strategies will be counterproductive if they are executed without the instrumentality of an able workforce, structures and effective administrative systems. The fundamental reason behind why several policies and strategies do not achieve their stated objective is not the usual suspect—implementation capacity gap. Rather, it is the absence of appropriate systems. If the bad governance that is disenfranchising citizens is to be ended so that they are able to freely exercise their rights and be treated with respect in the course of the provision of services, it is primarily up to the government to see to it institutes are system characterized by transparency and accountability.
The measures taken to address public disgruntlement over bad governance, miscarriage of justice and rampant corruption must necessarily be well thought out and prudent. This makes it imperative to build administrative systems that enable institutions to introduce procedures which keep pace with contemporary thinking. These systems not only need to lay down service standards, but also have to comprise strictly enforceable monitoring and accountability components. The alternative is to continue with the doomed business-as-usual mentality.
If infractions committed by the top brass or low-level functionaries are not put through a rigorous evaluation system, the punishments meted out against them will lack credibility. It’s by devising beforehand a set of monitoring and evaluation procedures that administrative and criminal measures can be effectively taken without eliciting distrust or discontent.Such practices as removing a public official from his post for undisclosed “transgressions”and reassigning him to another position of responsibility are liable to cause the government hemorrhage political capital and tip over the despairing public despair into violence.
A significant proportion of the steps the government takes barely earn public approval due to the fact that they are belated or erratic. One of the factors which create a rift between the government and the public is the opacity of government operations. The constitution provides that the conduct of the affairs of the government shall be transparent and accountable. The reality, however, cannot be further from this as the age-old culture of secretiveness still prevails both within the government and the general public. Though much has been said about bad governance in the past six months or so by various officials at all levels of government, no meaningful action has been taken to date owing to the non-existence of the requisite institutional capacity and system. This is precisely the reason why bad elements which perennially mistreat and deny the public access to justice and which embezzle with impunity public funds and properties at their disposal have proliferated within the ranks of the government.
Citizens’ flawed relationship with the government cannot be mended through campaigns masquerading as movements or by offering empty platitudes. First and foremost, from those occupying the bottom rung to the top each and every public servant has to be imbued with a spirit of accountability and integrity; they must abide faithfully by the principle of transparency.Transparency ensures that any and all public officials are held accountable for any failure in official duties.If the government is to rid itself of self-serving and irresponsible cads and deliver the services incumbent upon it, it has to devise and implement a system that rewards hardworking and honest folks and holds to account the perpetrators of maladministration or crimes.
A credibility gap has set the government and the people on a collision course and has actually led to deadly protests in some parts of the country. This necessitates the introduction of impartial systems that can bridge the gap. Furthermore, due importance should be accorded to meritocracy. The sole consideration in the placement of anyone to a government post should be merit, not ethnic background, religious or political beliefs, gender or other extraneous factors. The government should abandon the archaic practice of appointing officials on a quota basis. A person who lacks character and ability cannot do a proper job of managing his family let alone administer the public.
The government is duty-bound to exercise caution when it sets out to tackle bad governance, the biggest source of disenfranchisement throughout the country. True, it needs to canvass public opinion to gauge the latter’s true feeling through reliable channels which are not hijacked by elements with ulterior motives. The feedback it garners from the public then has to be systematically analyzed within the contest of existing realities with a view to charting the way forward. Aside from displaying the political commitment to heed public opinion, the building of a system requires institutions to be availed with the necessary budget, competent personnel as well as state-of-the-art technology. In this rapidly evolving age where diverse interests are at play, it is well nigh impossible to subjugate a people or govern a nation as one wishes. Supplanting such arbitrariness with systemic solutions is an urgent task that cannot be put off for tomorrow.