The theme of this year’s African Public Service Day (APSD), Entrenching Good Governance: Developing Transparent and Accountable Public Institutions, puts focus on the quality of human resource in the public service. It is a response to the increasing public agitation globally that human resource should be at the centre of demand for transparent and accountable public sector institutions.
Transparency and accountability go beyond the mere responsibility of delivering a task or service. It means that public servants are answerable if a service is not delivered in a timely and efficient manner. Service delivery is hence not only a responsibility of government, but a citizen’s right which they can demand for, if not delivered well.
Studies continue to reveal that human resource management strategies, ranging from talent acquisition, employee performance management and development strategies have a positive and significant impact on service delivery. It is, therefore, the primary responsibility of Public Service Commission (PSC) to ensure that public service is managed by ethical and professional public servants accountable to the citizens. Other functions of the commission under Article 234 of the Constitution is to ensure efficiency and effectiveness of the public service, and recruitment and developing human resource in the public service, among others.
The theme and focus on human resource management of the APSD, which we celebrated yesterday, therefore spotlights how the PSC is delivering its mandate. The impact of Covid-19 has not spared operations of the PSC. The way in which we interact within our departments, as well as citizen-to-government engagement is witnessing a significant shift as a result of the current work-from-home requirements.
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The commission has turned to information technology solutions to ensure delivery of its core mandate is not adversely affected. During this lockdown period, the commission has leveraged virtual technology to recruit and provide critical personnel in a timely manner to ministries, departments and agencies managing the spread of Covid-19. Interviews are conducted through WebEx and telephone to comply with the laid down Health ministry safety precautions.
The commission has successfully shortlisted and interviewed various cadres of officers to ensure service delivery is not affected. To mitigate the crisis brought about by the pandemic in the health sector, the commission recruited 5,550 health personnel across all counties.
It also recruited the Director-General, Deputy Director General and appointed Authorised Officer for Nairobi Metropolitan Service through virtual technology to ensure Nairobi residents continue receiving services.
We have placed a call for the third round of the Public Service Internship Programme targeting young graduates. The first and second rounds brought in about 12,000 interns on a 12-month programme.
Our medium-term vision, contained in Strategic Plan 2019-2024, is to have a citizen-centric public service. The Covid-19 situation presents both opportunities and challenges to PSC. Prior to the pandemic, public service transformation initiatives considered both online and offline solutions almost on equal footing. But under the current circumstances, the latter is rapidly taking a backseat. Accordingly, paper-based solutions and face-to-face services are increasingly becoming an exception. There is instead an accelerated demand for online services that can be accessed remotely. The shift to digital technologies is therefore an integral part of our transformation and innovation strategies.
Specifically, PSC intends to increase access to public services through IT platforms – providing information and services as and where needed, particularly, focusing more on the unserved, the underserved and citizen service delivery pain points. We are therefore establishing a Citizen Contact Centre as a one-stop point for citizens’ service delivery. This initiative aims at achieving transparency and accountability in public service delivery and to improve the quality and efficiency of public service deliver. It also requires explicit service delivery obligations be met by service providers, and implement mechanisms to ensure performance and accountability.
PSC is in the processes of seeking partners in various regions, either with county governments or public service institutions, to set up regional virtual interview centres. This will drastically reduce travel time and expenditure for candidates from far-flung parts of the country such as Mandera or Turkana.
The commission is also exploring possibilities of collaborating with Huduma centres to ensure services which do not require physical visit to the headquarters are offered at the citizens’ convenience.
Mr Kirogo is the Public Service Commission chairman