Urban and rural ministry tackles weaknesses

09 April 2019 | Government

Urban and rural development minister Peya Mushelenga this week took aim at a number of staff performance weaknesses hampering service delivery at his ministry.

During the minister's annual staff address, he tackled a number of issues including lack of punctuality, productivity, efficiency and innovation. He urged staff members to take more interest in their work, to adhere to performance agreements and to be more proactive.

He further stressed that this is the year of accountability, and that all staff are jointly responsible for the work output and quality of the ministry.

Mushelenga said in particular two divisions, which he did not name, were underperforming, and sometimes took “days, weeks” to finish important tasks.

“When you underperform you are cheating government. Your salary is paid according to your job description,” he said.

He further emphasised the need for quality rather than quantity.

Another issue Mushelenga highlighted was the lack of feedback and communication within the ministry, and between the ministry and service providers.

“If you know someone needs to be paid, communicate on time. Don't wait for them to come and beg as if they are borrowing money.”

He said even if the money could not be paid promptly, the service providers should be informed in a timely and efficient manner.

“These people have employees too that they are supposed to pay. Meanwhile, you keep people waiting.”

Mushelenga also took to task other government agencies, including the office of the government attorneys, saying they sometimes failed to communicate efficiently and in a timely manner.

Mushelenga said the ministry is often embroiled in litigation, but at times is only advised of the notices at a very late stage or after responses have already been filed by the government attorney on the case. He said sometimes cases are lost because documentation or information is not shared promptly with the ministry.

Staff feedback

During the feedback slot, staff highlighted issues they say cause delays and cripple their ability to perform diligently, including limited technical staff and lack of collaboration and communication between various departments.

A major issue pointed out by a staff member was a mismatch between too many support staff and too few technical staff, which leads to lengthy delays, backlogs, poor performance and inability to reach targets.

This lack of capacity had been addressed in a restructuring proposal a few years ago, a staff member said.

He warned that unless the chronic lack of capacity within these crucial departments was addressed, “delays will remain”.

Both Mushelenga and executive director Nghidinwa Daniel acknowledged the capacity issues at the ministry but urged staff to recognise and work around current limitations, including a general hold on new appointments throughout the public service.

Other staff also underlined that the “work mentality” of many in the ministry, and the government overall, poses a major roadblock to improved service delivery and productivity. Another member of staff stressed that they are acutely aware that “the issue of land is critical” but that in some cases senior managers do not take the “plight of Namibians”, especially those in informal settlements, equally seriously.

Daniel highlighted all the issues put on the table by both the minister and staff, and provided feedback and suggestions.

He agreed that while a lack of skills was problematic, “we are called upon to make the best with what we have”.