Review the placement of public servants

Review the placement of public servants

Last week during the debate on budget allocations in parliament, a number of concerns were raised as different ministers tried to convince the august House why their ministries should be allocated more money. One concern that stood out for me was raised by one Hon Phiri, a Proportional Representation member.
In her address, Hon Phiri was mostly concerned by the skewed placements that have crippled the public service. She blamed the bad service offered at government institutions and parastatals on the manner in which public servants are deployed by the Public Service Commission.
She cited very clear and practical examples such as the deployment of Public Administration graduates in the Human Resource departments when there are people who have studied human resources management. Another example was the apparent few placement of social workers in the Ministry of Social Development, an issue that makes it problematic for such a ministry to function effectively in disseminating services to the right people.

The issue raised by Hon Phiri has been a thorn on the sides of many graduates who have waited for placement for years on end. Some of the graduates have been on the Public Service list for more than 10 years with no luck of being deployed.
The main reason for this crooked deployment is the excessive politicisation of the public service where people are placed based on who they know, not what they know.

What the honourable MP raised is a very serious issue that has not just negatively impacted on the services that Basotho get but has also negatively affected the lives of the youth.
Another sector that is adversely affected by the poor placement is the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS), a department that is tasked with dispensing bursaries and collecting money from those that have been sponsored.
If social workers are not placed at the Ministry of Social Development like the MP is lamenting, the NMDS will not get the money back from them because it means most of them will not be working.

In addition, the orphans, the elderly and those who are disabled will not get the necessary services as the right people that could serve their best interests are not available at the ministry.
Although they will get administrative services their well-being which is supposed to be attended to by social workers will not be answered.
Moreover, the country spends a lot of money for Basotho to study what the country does not “need” at foreign universities. For example the other day I saw a vacancy at the Ministry of Education and Training for the post of – Economic Planner.

As I read the duties of the “economic planner” they included the development of sound education policies, ensure the effective dissemination and implementation of education policies. The qualifications needed for this post were a degree in Economics or any social science.
One would ask what my problem with this post was. Well my contention was that requirements mentioned do not match with the duties tabled. This is because to my knowledge over a period of more than ten years, the NMDS has sponsored many students at universities in South Africa to study Education Policy.

As such, there is no reason for the Ministry of Education to be looking for social scientists and economists to develop education policies whereas there are Basotho who have studied education policy.
This is a waste of the meagre money that the NMDS has spent on sending these specialists to school.
In addition, the Public Service Commission itself seems to be engaging old policies when it comes to the placement of the public servants.
I am saying this because they seem not to be aware of the emerging specialities that Basotho now possess as they continue to place “compromise” graduates in positions that they no longer qualify for.

A good example here is the argument by Hon Phiri on Public Administration graduates who still work as human resource personnel.
It is very unfortunate that this issue of placement has haunted Lesotho from as far back as 1966 when opposition parliamentarians of that time were fighting the government for continuing to give Europeans advantage over Basotho in the public service.
In the parliament seating of 15 March, 1966, one Member of Parliament named Hon. Shakane Mokhehle, (an opposition MP at that time) when addressing the house with regard to the placement of the Europeans ahead of Basotho asked: “Has the Hon. Minister ever studied the work of ‘Mapepere (senior Matron Pepper) an old wrinkled woman at the Hospital?… Hasn’t she collected enough money to buy herself a coffin for her burial so that her place can be filled by a Mosotho?”

It is very sad that today the government continues to place people in posts that they no longer qualify for at the expense of those that hold the right qualifications. The fight now is no longer against the appointment of Europeans in place of Basotho, but it is against a qualified Mosotho against an “unqualified” Mosotho.
I want to plead with the Government of Lesotho to introspect and correct its ways when it comes to the issue of deployment as it affects so many other factors including those that are not mentioned in this article.
We are in the midst of reforms, let us take this opportunity as a nation to retrace our steps and correct where we went wrong and we definitely need to re-look at the issue of deployment with all the urgency it deserves.

Kelello Rakolobe

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