24 February 2013

Rwanda: Why Not a Leaner, but Better Paid Public Workforce?


Last week, officials from the Public Service Commission appeared before both chamber of parliament to give explanations on the recruitment process of public servants. The direct reason for this appearance seems the be the recent presentation of the observations by the Public Accounts Committee on the auditor general's report, which showed that much of the mismanagement happening in public offices is due to incompetence of staff.

In 2012, the commission analyzed 208 job recruitment reports from 96 public institutions, which brought to light irregularities like the published marks for applicants being different from the ones provided by the examiners; candidates succeeding for positions but not hired; and the issue of foreign candidates applying for public service jobs. There were also a considerable number of institutions which didn't provide any report.

In addition, it was also found that while job interviews with candidates are recorded, there is no transparency at all when it comes to the votes by members of the jury; the ballot is secret and the individual judges don't have to justify their decision.

Last but not least, it was also observed that in some cases the selected candidate was not able to produce a certified diploma, yet was still hired.

Such practices are inacceptable, and the MPs would do well to follow up on the PSC's presentation to make sure that measures are actually taken to rectify the situation. Public services are financed with taxpayers' (and donors') money, and Rwandans are entitled to getting value for their money, which means competent people recruited through stringent processes.

On the other hand, it has to be recognized that the public sector will always have a hard time to compete with the private one when it comes to finding the best available human resources, considering that the government, due to a limited budget, cannot always offer the best wages.

In addition, there are posts in the public sector (especially technical ones) for which there are simply no qualified local people. In such cases, it is indeed a necessary evil to hire expensive expatriates, as is currently the case, rather than insists on and incompetent Rwandan.

Therefore, the government might consider to opt for a leaner, but better paid workforce, which would have the added advantage that it is easier to give them regular proficiency training. Surely there is still room to do away with overlaps between services - to give but one example: we have a ministry of education with a minister of state in charge of primary and secondary education, the Rwanda Education Board, the National Examinations Council, ... The agriculture sector, too, seems rather crowded with a multitude of institutions.

Let us hope that the new structure for the public service, which is currently being elaborated by Mifotra, has taken these issues into account.

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