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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The need to sanitise and ensure discipline in the public sector

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It is indeed no secret that there is urgent need to reform our public sector (sanitisation), and ensure discipline within the sector for a durable socio-economic development. It must be understood that Gambians voted for not only change of government but more significantly, a total change of the rotten system that was entrenched for over 50 years.

It is evident that our public sector lacks discipline which is a serious contributing factor to our underdevelopment. From corruption to nepotism, failure to report to work on time and carelessness in carrying out duties by some of our public servants are serious cause for concern. Since independence, African countries have worn a uniform of poverty and underdevelopment, characterized by high level of corruption and administrative inefficiency.

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According to Jose Ugaz, chair of Transparency International, corruption creates and increases poverty and exclusion. While corrupt individuals with political power he further agues, enjoy a lavish life, millions of Africans are deprived of their basic needs like food, health, education, housing, access to clean water and sanitation. One of the fundamental differences between the private and public sectors is discipline. It has become a norm for public servants to report to work anytime without questions and leave offices anytime equally without questions being asked. From independence to date, our public sector has been almost an epitome of corruption, bribery and nepotism and total administrative inefficiency. In Sub-Saharan Africa for instance according to Transparency International in 2015, nearly 78 million people are estimated to have paid a bribe in the past year, some to escape punishment by the police or courts, but many forced to pay to get access to the basic services that they desperately need.

From the police to immigration, custom officials to other public offices, government parastatals inclusive, bribery and corruption have become routine practices. The recent revelation of a number of ‘ghost workers’, many of who are no more alive but still on the government payroll is not a surprise but only shows how greedy and heartless some can be. It is therefore, imperative that further investigations are done to find those heartless Gambians receiving such payments as neither the ‘ghost workers’ nor their families were the recipients.

Mr. President, it is known to all that corruption was a rampant phenomenon during the PPP regime, when ministers and other top government officials could squander public wealth without facing disciplinary consequences. In fact, one of the very reasons why the military had to intervene in 1994 was under the pretext of rescuing the country from civilian mismanagement, thus it could be referred as a ‘guardian coup’. But come to think of it, that Jammeh and his government failed to address this major challenge, instead perpetuated or even arguably degenerated the situation. The task of the new government in the so-called new Gambia therefore, is to put a stop to this cancer. In addition Mr. President, it is again no secret that nepotism has been a norm and our public sector has become synonymous with the phenomenon.

It is for this reason that, our new government must prioritize fighting another cancer called ‘nepotism’. What you know ought to count and not whom you know as you have promised the nation on January 19 2017. Because there is a change of government does not mean that people can be given positions because they have ‘struggled’ for the coalition. I am of the view that each and every Gambian has struggled in one way or the other against a system we collectively identified and recognized as a bad one and rejected it in totality. Therefore, this new government must not allow our public sector to be inundated with sycophants with no proper education and qualifications to man positions in our public offices. In light of this, be cautious of the ‘political prostitutes’ too, sorry for the language, who are now perambulating everywhere looking for little opportunity to infect the system once more.

Furthermore Mr. President, the new government under your leadership must put in place proper measures to inculcate job discipline in our civil and public servants. Lateness to work must not be condoned anymore. We have and continue to witness situations where government employees arrive late to work and depart their offices before closing time. This is rampant even in our health sector-at the hospitals where health practitioners tasked to save our lives can report to work late. In our ministries, it is the same. In our parastatals and other departments, it is sadly the same. Mr. President, we must put an urgent and an unconditional stop to lateness to work, nepotism, wage war against corruption to ensure that professionalism, effectiveness and efficiency guide our would-be reformed public sector.

Yours in the service of the nation
Essa Njie

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