It is unsavory for ministers to skip elementary procedural requirement

15Jan 2022
Editor
The Guardian
It is unsavory for ministers to skip elementary procedural requirement

JUST how prone to shortcuts and for dubious reasons that many in the public sector are likely to be was in evidence in remarks by highest government officials on what needs to change in the way high level appointees of President Samia Suluhu Hassan conduct their work.

Vice President Dr Philip Mpango was plaintively asking ministers to be ‘sympathetic’ to the president for the sheer amount of work she has to do, and refrain from overburdening her with work that ought to be done elsewhere. A couple of examples the VP used to illustrate his remarks were sufficient to show that there is a gap of procedural observances.

In one instance a cabinet minister pushed to the president’s desk a proposed contractual arrangement without even having asked for a legal viewpoint from the Attorney General, the VP noted, picking another issue as bypassing the prime minister to rush to the president. There is a psychological problem of identifying the motivation, as in legal terms there is an aura of contempt – the problem is whether it is contempt of the top officials the minister would be skipping, or it is of the president herself. Either way a minister takes it for granted that all is well, moving to ignoring the procedure and seeking a direct answer.

While the issues being discussed related to ministers there are scores of public officials who don’t have to report to ministers directly, or do not feel bound to do so, and this has always been a problem in defining the scope of ministerial responsibility especially in relation to executive agencies. Depending on the tone adopted by the government, for instance in this clarification by the vice president, bureaucrats will learn if there is a shift in ‘red lines’ or it is business as usual. For all gaps in observance of procedure stem from hidden agenda, the wish to rush government commitment to something; one can always smell a rat there.

It can be said that with the latest cabinet changes, the time to ‘study’ the sixth phase to see how corruption can be pursued without much worry is closing out. The president has consistently reorganized the line-up when it was clear that things weren’t working as expected, at times just on one organization like the her dissolution of the Dar es Salaam port board of directors early last month. But ministerial shuffles are more effective measures as often it is habits in a whole sector or administrative structures that need to change.

Government is a vast organisation which can’t forcibly close out all avenues for wrongdoing, but when the issues are made clear and rectifying measures taken, the public can hope that the best will come out of it. That is why the new functions of government coordination and inspectorate, as well as responsibility for central government contractual engagements, may uplift things. Even if a minister tries to push an issue to the highest desk, those around the president – and the pusher – know where the file will land. Hurrah!