Lack of service consciousness and productivity among Gambia civil servants

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By Ousman Jassey

There should be a broad consensus that low government wages in The Gambia result in a decline of public sector efficiency and productivity and create both incentives and opportunities for corruption and misuse of public resources. However, most Gambians will also agree that increasing salaries without establishing effective control and monitoring systems as well as enforcement of appropriate sanctions is unlikely to have an impact on corruption. Underpaid staffs develop a wide range of coping strategies to top up incomes, such as teaching, consulting for development agencies, or moonlighting in the private sector. One of the most frequent and effective strategies consists of concentrating on activities that benefit from either government or donor funded per Diems and allowances.

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In addition to great potential for abuse, such practices have a number of undesirable side effects such as distorting the incentive structure of public servants, encouraging specific forms of corruption and patronage, creating situations favourable to conflicts of interest, competition for time and brain drain. Greater transparency and accountability are needed to address the perverse effects of such practices; although the debate on these issues is still at an early stage in President Ado’s administration. However, three major policy directions should be implemented in President Aldo’s government and these include the need to reform the public sector incentives’ structure, harmonize the government’s payments of allowances/per diems and establish more effective control mechanisms.

As a major instrument for implementing government policies, the civil service in The Gambia is expected to be professionally competent, loyal and efficient. Nonetheless, it is now denounced, as elsewhere in Africa, for being corrupt, poorly trained and poorly attuned to the needs of the poor. Ironically, the civil service is expected to play the key role in managing and implementing reform programs in the country. This has led to a number of complex agency problems, yet to be resolved. However, it is broadly acknowledged, and many Gambians experiences attests to this, that when the incentive structures in the civil service remain poor, its efficiency as well as ability to effect policy, such as that directed toward reducing poverty, will remain very low. And unfortunately the new life styles in The Gambia which is based on living in fantasy world do not help.
The Gambia’s economic and political landscape is pervaded by corruption and abuse of office. Many Gambians have agreed and concluded that systemic corruption and low levels of transparency and accountability have been major sources of development failure in the country. Illegal activities such as the advance fee-fraud and money laundering have torn the fabric of The Gambian society and this had worsened in last two decades under the leadership of Devil Mansa. Although, it can be justifiably argued that it started since Jawara’s administration.

 

Laconic view of factors affecting the civil service
Furthermore, factors affecting the efficiency of the Gambian civil service, can be noted as the following:
Over staffing and the closely related poor remuneration of employees in public service are key factors.
Secondly, there are the issues of poor assessment of manpower needs and the use of wrong criteria to appraise staff performance.
Thirdly, lack of education or haphazard education, lack morality, unethical behaviors, greed and absolute egotism.

These above mentioned factors have led to poor recruitment procedures or recruiting ill-prepared people, inadequate training and ineffective supervision. There tends to be a lack of qualified technical support staff as opposed to the abundance of general staff. The failure to carry out periodic assessment of manpower needs of the various departments leads not only to uneconomic systems of compensation but also to inadequate job description and poor physical working conditions. There has also been considerable political interference in the process of personnel administration, leading to improper delegation of power, ineffective supervision and corruption. The resulting apathy has in turn led to unauthorized and unreasonable absenteeism, lateness and idleness and, notably, poor workmanship.

For the above problems, relating to what can now generally be referred to in the country as the ‘The Gambian factor’, to be addressed, it is imperative that appropriate incentive structures to raise workers’ morale be put in place. Although the former AFPRC military regime attempted to address the above problems when former Lieutenant Sana B. Sabally used to stood at Denton Bridge monitoring the late comers among civil servants. However, it was ultimately not in their interest to tackle the ‘The Gambian factor’. It was the means for their survival as it was evidenced by Yahya Jammeh’s economic corrupt behaviors.

 

Wage attrition and political sponsorship
As stated earlier, former Lieutenant S.B. Sabally’s attempt to inculcate and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the civil service was/is necessary, particularly now when the civil service is expected to play an important role in the implementation of structural adjustment and other reforms, that are necessary to uplift The Gambia from its pathos state after two decades of economic, political and social horrors by the AFPRC/APRC Regime. Among others, any meaningful reforms should address economic growth, wage and employment issues, as well as training and human capital development.
Civil service wages and salaries in The Gambia are not only low, but have also declined in real terms in the past two decades. Much of this decline was on account of the high rates of economic mismanagement leading to chronic inflation that the economy was and still experiencing.

Civil servants are the least paid group of workers in The Gambia. Wages in private employment sectors are, for example, much higher than those in the public sectors. Although there are no comparative data by grade level, anecdotal evidence suggests that public sector wages in The Gambia are lower than private sector wages. Clearly, there is a need to make the salary structure of the civil service more competitive in order to correct the image of the civil service. A demoralized and disgruntled worker whose image has been unduly tarnished cannot be an effective instrument of change. The government of President Ado should seriously look into status of civil servants wages.

Political sponsorship is an important factor in the incentive environment of the public sector in The Gambia. Civil service appointments often tend to reflect this in larger measure than the skills and professional qualifications of the individuals appointed. This has turned The Gambia civil service into a highly politicized institution. The nature of the Gambian leadership in the last two decades has also led to disruptive shifts within the civil service. Given this erratic nature of the institution over the years, constructing workable incentive structures, based on better training, wages, promotion and increased responsibility, has been next to impossible. The civil service was filled with a highly untrained cadre of officers was also overwhelmed by the frequent and erratic changes of managements by the former president caused a tremendous amount of disruptions and ineffectiveness.

 

Corruption and rent-seeking in the Gambia: An investigation
The simplest definition of corruption public domain is that it is the misapplication of public resources to private ends. In a broader sense, however, corruption can be defined as “an arrangement that involves an exchange between two parties (the demander and the supplier) which:

 

There should be a broad consensus that low government wages in The Gambia result in a decline of public sector efficiency and productivity and create both incentives and opportunities for corruption and misuse of public resources. However, most Gambians will also agree that increasing salaries without establishing effective control and monitoring systems as well as enforcement of appropriate sanctions is unlikely to have an impact on corruption. Underpaid staffs develop a wide range of coping strategies to top up incomes, such as teaching, consulting for development agencies, or moonlighting in the private sector. One of the most frequent and effective strategies consists of concentrating on activities that benefit from either government or donor funded per Diems and allowances.

In addition to great potential for abuse, such practices have a number of undesirable side effects such as distorting the incentive structure of public servants, encouraging specific forms of corruption and patronage, creating situations favourable to conflicts of interest, competition for time and brain drain. Greater transparency and accountability are needed to address the perverse effects of such practices; although the debate on these issues is still at an early stage in President Ado’s administration. However, three major policy directions should be implemented in President Aldo’s government and these include the need to reform the public sector incentives’ structure, harmonize the government’s payments of allowances/per diems and establish more effective control mechanisms.

As a major instrument for implementing government policies, the civil service in The Gambia is expected to be professionally competent, loyal and efficient. Nonetheless, it is now denounced, as elsewhere in Africa, for being corrupt, poorly trained and poorly attuned to the needs of the poor. Ironically, the civil service is expected to play the key role in managing and implementing reform programs in the country. This has led to a number of complex agency problems, yet to be resolved. However, it is broadly acknowledged, and many Gambians experiences attests to this, that when the incentive structures in the civil service remain poor, its efficiency as well as ability to effect policy, such as that directed toward reducing poverty, will remain very low. And unfortunately the new life styles in The Gambia which is based on living in fantasy world do not help.
The Gambia’s economic and political landscape is pervaded by corruption and abuse of office. Many Gambians have agreed and concluded that systemic corruption and low levels of transparency and accountability have been major sources of development failure in the country. Illegal activities such as the advance fee-fraud and money laundering have torn the fabric of The Gambian society and this had worsened in last two decades under the leadership of Devil Mansa. Although, it can be justifiably argued that it started since Jawara’s administration.

 

Laconic view of factors affecting the civil service
Furthermore, factors affecting the efficiency of the Gambian civil service, can be noted as the following:
Over staffing and the closely related poor remuneration of employees in public service are key factors.
Secondly, there are the issues of poor assessment of manpower needs and the use of wrong criteria to appraise staff performance.
Thirdly, lack of education or haphazard education, lack morality, unethical behaviors, greed and absolute egotism.

These above mentioned factors have led to poor recruitment procedures or recruiting ill-prepared people, inadequate training and ineffective supervision. There tends to be a lack of qualified technical support staff as opposed to the abundance of general staff. The failure to carry out periodic assessment of manpower needs of the various departments leads not only to uneconomic systems of compensation but also to inadequate job description and poor physical working conditions. There has also been considerable political interference in the process of personnel administration, leading to improper delegation of power, ineffective supervision and corruption. The resulting apathy has in turn led to unauthorized and unreasonable absenteeism, lateness and idleness and, notably, poor workmanship.

For the above problems, relating to what can now generally be referred to in the country as the ‘The Gambian factor’, to be addressed, it is imperative that appropriate incentive structures to raise workers’ morale be put in place. Although the former AFPRC military regime attempted to address the above problems when former Lieutenant Sana B. Sabally used to stood at Denton Bridge monitoring the late comers among civil servants. However, it was ultimately not in their interest to tackle the ‘The Gambian factor’. It was the means for their survival as it was evidenced by Yahya Jammeh’s economic corrupt behaviors.

 

Wage attrition and political sponsorship
As stated earlier, former Lieutenant S.B. Sabally’s attempt to inculcate and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the civil service was/is necessary, particularly now when the civil service is expected to play an important role in the implementation of structural adjustment and other reforms, that are necessary to uplift The Gambia from its pathos state after two decades of economic, political and social horrors by the AFPRC/APRC Regime. Among others, any meaningful reforms should address economic growth, wage and employment issues, as well as training and human capital development.
Civil service wages and salaries in The Gambia are not only low, but have also declined in real terms in the past two decades. Much of this decline was on account of the high rates of economic mismanagement leading to chronic inflation that the economy was and still experiencing.

Civil servants are the least paid group of workers in The Gambia. Wages in private employment sectors are, for example, much higher than those in the public sectors. Although there are no comparative data by grade level, anecdotal evidence suggests that public sector wages in The Gambia are lower than private sector wages. Clearly, there is a need to make the salary structure of the civil service more competitive in order to correct the image of the civil service. A demoralized and disgruntled worker whose image has been unduly tarnished cannot be an effective instrument of change. The government of President Ado should seriously look into status of civil servants wages.

Political sponsorship is an important factor in the incentive environment of the public sector in The Gambia. Civil service appointments often tend to reflect this in larger measure than the skills and professional qualifications of the individuals appointed. This has turned The Gambia civil service into a highly politicized institution. The nature of the Gambian leadership in the last two decades has also led to disruptive shifts within the civil service. Given this erratic nature of the institution over the years, constructing workable incentive structures, based on better training, wages, promotion and increased responsibility, has been next to impossible. The civil service was filled with a highly untrained cadre of officers was also overwhelmed by the frequent and erratic changes of managements by the former president caused a tremendous amount of disruptions and ineffectiveness.

 

Corruption and rent-seeking in the Gambia: An investigation
The simplest definition of corruption public domain is that it is the misapplication of public resources to private ends. In a broader sense, however, corruption can be defined as “an arrangement that involves an exchange between two parties (the demander and the supplier) which:

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