CABINET ministers will be able to lay complaints against permanent secretaries when proposed amendments to the Public Service Act are adopted, says the Secretary to Cabinet, Frans Kapofi.
The Namibian approached Kapofi to clarify the relationship between ministers and their permanent secretaries.
Recent media reports suggested that ministers were just political figureheads and that some PSes have become their own bosses not answerable to ministers.
Some ministers have complained that their permanent secretaries act as if they are in charge and would even go as far as keeping relevant information from ministers.
In the recent reshuffle of permanent secretaries, it was reported that some ministers were not on speaking terms with their administrative heads. This is said to have contributed partly to the 'cosmetic' rearrangement.
With the new amendment to the Public Service Act, the minister can lay a complaint against a PS with the Secretary to Cabinet, who would then follow the same disciplinary procedures as is the case with other civil servants, explained Kapofi.
At the same time, Kapofi admitted that there are many flaws in the Public Service Act, saying that a process to identify these problems has started and some presentations have been made to the Prime Minister.
"We have to obtain the green light from the political leaders and can then continue with the process such as to refer a concept amendment bill to the Public Service Act to the legal drafters. So it is a matter of time before the amendments will be ready," said Kapofi.
Kapofi said the public service is politically neutral, adding that no permanent secretary should keep a minister in the dark.
He said the minister is the political head of a ministry, while the PS acts as the administrative head.
"It would be suicidal for a PS to keep information only to him or herself as the minister can institute disciplinary action against them. There were some cases of friction between a PS and a minister but [these] were solved after both of them had meetings with either the Prime Minister or the President," Kapofi said.
He said since the permanent secretaries are put in charge of the state machinery and have to serve the government of the day, the ministers would like to implement projects so that visible changes could be observed.
"However, the PS and his top management have to ensure that money is budgeted for the project, that the right tender procedures are being followed and that it is monitored once it has commenced. It could happen that during this process, the minister and the PS would differ on an issue, but this does not mean that the civil servant does not have respect for the political head of the ministry."
According to Kapofi, ministers and permanent secretaries should recognise their respective roles and set up administrative structures in the ministries where problems can be discussed and mutually accepted solutions found.
"We have a Cabinet handbook that clearly spells out the roles of the ministers and the permanent secretaries and a PS cannot be insensitive towards an idea of a minister. However, we are working with people with different personalities and this might create some tension between the minister and the PS at times. But at the same time we don't want to have a situation where the minister is ruling with a whip."