Friday, 26 December 2014

Ask what your country can do for you

(First Published in New Era Newspaper - 27 August 2014)

I have been working for a government institution for the past year. This has been the first time in my career spanning over twenty years that I have been a ‘public servant’. Over the years I have heard (and even contributed to the conversation) stories about the laziness of the government service and the un-helpfulness of public servants. Now that I am working in one of these institutions I have realised that these stories are more urban legends than actual fact. Many public servants, from the street cleaners in Windhoek to the election officials in the remotest parts of our country, are doing their best to deliver the service that is expected from a government.
Looking at consumer issues, means we should also look at the largest service organisation in Namibia, namely the Government of the Republic of Namibia (GRN).
The GRN launched the first Public Service Charter was launched in 1997 and then expanded to its present ten principles that form part of reform designed to provide professional, efficient, effective end economic services.
This week I will look at some of these principles and invite you, our esteemed New Era readers, to look at them and write to us at Consumer Court about any of these principles you have seen first-hand being followed or ignored.
Standards – These must be published and monitored – allowing consumer access to the standards public servants are expected to uphold.
Courtesy and helpfulness – yes, this means a “good morning” or “how can I help you” when speaking to us the consumers.
Accountability – each consumer should be able to identify who at a GRN organisation/ministry or agency (OMA) has provided the service. To allow such identification each government employee working with customers should wear a name badge.
N0n-discrimaination – this is not only about race or gender, but also about understanding that some consumers might not of the educational background to be able to fully explain their needs. This is about taking time to “know your customer”.
Value for money – Each GRN employee is expected to efficient, effective and affordable services. Efficiency meaning that our time as customer and service provider is well used, effective meaning we get the result we expected when asking for a service and affordability referring to our purchase price of such service or product from GRN.
Information – The availability of information on services should be provided in a prompt straightforward and open manner that is readily understandable by all consumers. This also opens a small crack on the wider debate of public access to information at the OMA’s.
Consultation and participation should take place regularly to take into account the views and needs of the public.
Transparency – I quote, “Disclose how public services are managed together with the cost and performance of specific services which are open to public scrutiny in all actions taken in public office”.
Quality of service includes appraising consumer of the complaints procedures, feedback methods and how corrections will be made.
The Public Service Charter end with the principle of accessibility and refers to the provisions of the needed services where the consumer are situated. In other words bringing government service to the people.
As a public servant, even I had to question myself on how many of these principles I actually adhere to in my work. Sadly, I was only able to honestly state that wile six of the principles were adhered to by myself, I was clearly lacking in four other areas.

The main reason thus for this week’s column is thus to fulfil the principle of INFORMATION. I wish to encourage each and every consumer of government services to question any GRN employee (starting with myself) on the services we provide and how you can access them to ensure an improvement in your quality of life in our Land of the Brave.

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