Evaluate in-service training for civil servants

Thursday, December 17th, 2020 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Sammy Kwichichi Wekesa 

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s has plucked people from the military establishment into high profile appointments in the civil service.

He has discounted criticism that he was militarising the civil service, saying individuals from the military have delivered on work he had assigned them before.

The President raised pertinent questions on efficiency and effectiveness of the implementation of policies, regulations and programmes that meets the public’s interests.

He also said he has an agenda, a legacy to implement and leave behind, and that he saw no problem if officers from the military could help him deliver them.

President Uhuru’s remarks are worrying. They should worry Public Service Commission (PSC) whose constitutional duty, among others, is to ensure the public service is efficient and effective and to develop human resources in the public service.

This is an important function as the quality of governance and public service delivery can affect economic growth through its impact on human capital, poverty and inequality, and corruption.

Civil servants are important for three basic reasons. First, they have knowledge, experience of government laws, procedure and resources and, particularly the senior ones with long experience, presents information to principal and cabinet Secretaries in a way that helps them make policy choices.

Second, they advise on  what  is  implementable  within  the  country’s    financial  situation  and  available  human  resources. Third, they are the ones who execute cabinet decisions. 

Civil servants need technical and management capacity to discharge these functions.

They also need this capacity developed in accordance with changing needs. Pundits in public administration and management are asking whether the President doubts management capacity of the staff in the civil service.

Why has he drawn people from the military to run tasks civilians should have undertaken?

Is there a problem with the design of the training programmes that should ordinarily prepare civil servants for management and leadership in government? 

How does the PSC provide training or capabilities for recruited and deployed civilian staff to carry out their duties efficiently and effectively?

Is the kind of induction and training they receive throughout their careers sufficient for them to carry out public-sector management properly? Who trains them?

What is the quality of the training programme they undertake? 

Training for civil servants at middle and upper level tiers of administration or government should undertake common administrative or management courses—regardless of their specialisation.

At the very minimum, the courses should range from understanding of economics, finance, communications, an insight into political institutions, pressure groups, administration of government policy, accountability and governance to leadership training, finance management, project management and personnel development. 

The Kenya School of Government has been at the centre of capacity development of civil servants. How well is it discharging this mandate? 

In the old days, trainers at Government training institutions were normally civil servants with long experience in government.

Some of them had received elite training experience in institutions in UK, US, and other countries.

They gave real life experience of dynamics of government operations, challenge of policy formulation, project management, monitoring and the overall mandate of managing human recourses and teams.

President Uhuru’s preference for military as a catchment area for recruitment of people to manage public affairs means he has trust not in the military establishment per se, but in the training of its senior officers.

So much energy appear to be going into fighting corruption and less into training, into building capacity of the civil service in managing public affairs.  — The writer is the former Head of Department of Public Communications, State Department of EAC

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