Covid-19 ruthlessly exposed government inefficiencies, deficiencies

SHARE   |   Friday, 03 July 2020   |   By Ricardo Kanono
Covid-19 ruthlessly exposed government inefficiencies, deficiencies

If the new normal narrative bandied around as a consequence of Covid-19 is anything to go by, we are in for more ruthless exposure of government inefficiencies and deficiencies. To a large extent, live television broadcasts of the extra-ordinary parliamentary sittings from Members of Parliament, various government Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Chief Executive Officers of State Owned Enterprises and others, have all but confirmed that the high echelons of the country’s political and bureaucratic leadership is seriously burdened by the excessive, excess baggage. These exposures should explain why service deliveries amongst others to Batswana, have been for time immemorial, so poor and perhaps unexplainable. If you have always wondered why government machinery at all levels has been so slow to move, you have seen through live television broadcasts that the drivers of that machinery are hopelessly gripped by high levels of ineptitudes, inefficiencies and deficiencies. To be fair not to paint everyone with the same brush, there is a glimmer of hope in some of them. But by and large, a substantial number have shown that they are not only a burden to themselves but to the broader society. Live television pictures don’t lie.

The inefficiencies and deficiencies in the context of this conversation are borne out of the different messages from the same source over the same topic or issue as will be explained hereunder. The end result is that when these messages reach members of the public in that confused or distorted fashion, they cause the ‘unintended’ confusion. As a consequence thereto, members of the public more often than not are thrown into a panic mode. This is why I hold the view that the Covid-19 television updates have ruthlessly and brutally exposed government officials inefficiencies and deficiencies. And I ask myself: if such could be the case in the public forum, what happens behind closed doors? Your guess is good as mine.    

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Before I delve into the meat of this conversation, let me address the new normal narrative. Just like the 4th Industrial Revolution which has become a buzzword of late by the politicians in particular, a big chunk of them with the greatest of respect, cannot comprehend let alone articulate what it means. And so is the new normal! The new normal is explained as an opportunity brought about by Covid-19 pandemic to mean this: that because we have been ruthlessly and brutally exposed for our inefficiencies and deficiencies in many fronts, it is time that we correct them and maybe permanently so. With particular reference to government, a new normal is a window of opportunity for her to  genuinely and honestly introspect and with the benefit of hindsight, improve on processes and procedures which otherwise would have brought negative results. While it may be too early to expect the positive new normal to take effect, it is my expectation however that signs of a positive new normal should be starting to be discernible. But sadly and perhaps against expectation, the ruthless and brutal exposures of the inefficiencies and deficiencies lately displayed by government suggest we are still deeply stuck in the old normal while masquerading and conveniently so, as moving into the new normal. And before I forget, there is a clear sign emerging of late that the emerging failures in one form or the other are attributed to the narrative that we are still learning the new positive normal even in clear cases of serious dereliction of duty. In any case, serious dereliction of duty has been in the DNA of government. The manner of the slow movement of government machinery pre the Covid-19 period attests to this. I guess we should expect Covid-19 pandemic to be the excuse every step of the way. 

It has come to the fore that during the State of Public Emergency occasioned by Covid-19 pandemic, the levels of corruption particularly with respect to the procurement of Covid-19 goods and services has sky rocketed wherein the DCEC is reportedly investigating. Millions of Pula are said to have been misappropriated with such goods and services not delivered and if so delivered, being of such poor and inferior quality that they were as good as not delivered at all. Given the poor track record of managing corruption, it goes without saying that the powers that be should have been aware that the risk of corruption in a State of Emergency period would be highly and likely than in the normal period. What extra measures if any were put in place to mitigate against the possible high levels of Covid-19 related corruption? The obvious but unacceptable excuse would be that the usual staff was at home during lockdown. Should this be the reason, the current outcome of Covid-19 related corruption should not come as a shock or surprise because no other outcome was inevitable anyway.

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The Minister of Finance told the nation at the beginning of the lockdown that government had set aside P 2.4 billion to procure Covid-19 equipment and materials from China and that, delivery was expected shortly at the time. When he was asked by Hon Saleshando to give some detail to this procurement, he was saved by the Speaker who brought parliament proceedings to an end. The Permanent Secretary in the same ministry is reported to have told a weekly publication that no such procurement had been made. A figure far less than the P2.4 billion according to the ministry’s document titled ‘Update on Covid-19 Relief Fund June 2020’ and P 911 million to be precise, ‘went to wage subsidies, food hampers, health supplies and social relief. According to the said publication, it quotes the Permanent Secretary in the same ministry to have said that P 76 million of the  ‘funds were used to settle hotel bills for quarantines and to procure medical supplies such as PPEs and test kits for the Ministry of Health.’   Now when you get two conflicting statements from two senior persons who by virtue of their positions should give one common message, it tells you that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Surely, the Minister should be knowing what the Permanent Secretary does. This is not your ordinary ministry but the one under whose custody the country’s purse is located.

At the time of preparing for this conversation, the country was gripped by a serious petrol shortage reminiscent of the Zimbabwe situation. The general feeling among the citizens is that the Minister responsible for energy together with his Permanent Secretary are less than candid in telling the nation the true state of the petrol situation in the country. Its either they are less than candid or they simply do not know the true picture of the situation they are expected to manage. The messages from both the Minister and his Permanent Secretary seem to suggest albeit not in clear terms, that the delay in transporting petrol to various petrol stations is due to the delays occasioned by the drivers complying with Covid-19 tests at the border. The custodian of testing protocols Covid-19 Task Force has reportedly distanced itself from such claims.

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The manner in which the Ministry of Local Government has dealt with the food parcels left a lot to be desired for most of the beneficiaries. And as it has become the latest and greatest excuse, the narrative is Covid-19. While I do not dispute that fact that dealing with the food parcel issue was indeed an emergency and therefore that challenges would emerge, the overall manner and the magnitude of how this exercise was conducted simply showed the inefficiency at the highest level of the ministry. And it was no surprise when the Minister did not see nothing wrong with Mayors tendering to supply food parcels in Councils they lead and are part of. The conflicting stories from the Minister and the Permanent Secretary over the manner in which the food parcel issue was managed has exposed a serious lack of strategic leadership. Strategic leadership would mean in my view, that despite the huge challenges such leadership could face, the damage posed by such challenges should be restricted to the bare minimum in recognition of the fact that no man is perfect.

So what am I saying? I am saying that compatriots have had a glimpse, thanks to live television broadcasts, of just how seriously and pitifully challenged a big chunk of our political and bureaucratic  leadership is. I want to believe that if some of them had a choice not to appear live on television, they would have without question, opted to skip such appearances. Like I have already said, the latest and greatest excuse is the narrative that Covid-19 took everyone by surprise. To some degree I concede. But my point however is that what-you-see-is-what-you-get. Even post Covid-19 period with the same actors still in the hat, the same deficiencies and inefficiencies will remain with the end product they are mandated to deliver either not delivered or if so delivered, seriously compromised and of very low value.

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As a parting shot, the performance or lack thereof of some of the political and bureaucratic leadership in the Masisi administration have attracted, fairly or unfairly, serious scrutiny in the suitability, ability and capacities of such individuals to steer the ship any further. A serious and urgent re-configuration  of such leadership in my view, is palpably desirable to win back the lost public confidence. Some of them I am afraid, have overstayed their welcome.  I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise as always. Judge for Yourself!

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