The myriad questions on Harare’s plethora of challenges

The question Was and Is, could poor service delivery in Harare City Council be attributed to poor work attitude, undue political interference and or lack of financial autonomy?

I am assured, in accents of unmistakable sincerity, that there are Civil servants and Public Office bearers who not merely in high positions but drilling holes in a moving ship to modest subordinates with no hope of ever being much better in public administration functions, who do not shirk them, who do not arrive at the office as late as possible and depart as early as possible, who, in a word, put the whole of their force into their day’s work and are genuinely at the end thereof.

I am ready to believe it. I do believe it. I know it. I always knew it that the relationship between policy makers, service providers and the service consumers in Urban and Peri Urban Areas deserve all our attention, sober minds and consideration.

I quote Kayode, Adagba and Anyio (2013) who posit that service delivery refers to the tangible and intangible goods and services provided by the government to ameliorate the citizens’ wellbeing.

Service delivery is the actual provision of service such as refuse collection and disposal to the residents of a municipal area.

In relation to public service it is crucial to know that every recipient of a public service is an important co-producer or co-creator of any personal transformation that occurs.
In fact, the concept of co-production or co-creation as Mulgan (2010) calls it distinguishes service delivery in the public sector from that of private sector where the all powerful professionals, bureaucrats and businesses deliver services to passive users or consumers.
This means that the public service provider or its agent can only facilitate the transformation process.
This implies that service delivery in any local authority requires that both the citizen and the local authority collectively produce the desired transformation. For instance, when Harare City Council issues out rubbish bins to the citizens, the citizens should in turn make proper use of the bins and place them at points that can easily be accessed by the refuse collection compactor trucks but in contrary have observed with keen interest that the waste collection employees are now into private waste collection business during official working hours using Harare City Council trucks and compactors.

The objective of achieving a clean environment can only be achieved if the local authority collects the refuse frequently and regularly in terms of the refuse collection schedule for the particular area and the Waste Management department employees respecting their code of conduct without prejudice whatsoever.

Sound organisational structures and suitably qualified and well resourced human resources are crucial for government and quasi-government institutions to deliver high quality services that meet the customers’ needs and expectations.
The delivery of public services is through a nexus of relationships between politicians, beneficiaries and service providers.
In light of the aforesaid, it is necessary to study the incentives which regulate the behaviour of politicians and service providers in order to design and deliver services which meet the needs of the citizens.
The main concern in public service delivery has to do with how the obligations of the different parties are defined and enforced.

SirColin observed with keen interest that there are very limited or typically absent role of formal contractual relationships in public service delivery when compared to what happens in the private sector. Instead, public service delivery is largely marked by compliance with rules and determined by inputs.
The absence of customer focus on the part of the public service providers is a cause for concern as is either ineffective, costly, red taped, cumbersome, too procedural or not transparent.
Public servants generally behave as masters instead of being servants of the people and lack the vital senses of accountability and transparency which are some of the fundamental pillars of good corporate governance.
Unfortunately most citizens are now used to enhanced service delivery from the private sector and this causes them to expect value for money from the pubic sector.
Sound service delivery is a crucial aspect of the poverty reduction strategy and enhances the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Although public services are not measured in per capita income, they are an important determinant of the quality of life for the citizens of a
nation or society.
Delivery of service has a direct and immediate effect on the quality of the lives of the citizens. For instance, poor services can discourage investors from establishing businesses in a particular area and this will in turn restrict job opportunities for the residents.
The abysmal failure of the local
government system especially against a background where the local governments were receiving huge funding from the treasury accounts with no corresponding tangible and
sustainable development.

The provision of social services such as education, health, maintenance of roads and public utilities in local authorities has remained
both a myth and a mirage due to corruption, lack of staff, poor work attitude and undue political interference and Corruption robs local governments of financial strength and the ability to provide basic social services.

The question was could these factors be the drivers of poor service delivery in Harare City Council?
Movement of suitably qualified staff from local governments and politics of patronage which has seen people not suitably qualified for the jobs being recruited into local governments as a way of rewarding them for political support during elections results in the local governments lacking skilled, technical and professional staff such as qualified engineers, medical doctors, accountants, statisticians, lawyers, and town planners.
Consequently councils will lack suitably qualified and experienced workers who have the capacity to discharge high quality service in an honest, transparent and satisfactory manner.
My independent self assessment report points out that most civil servants and local government workers included, exhibit poor
work attitude which is counter productive such as absenteeism, lying, laziness, indiscipline,
lack of commitment to work and lateness to work.
I observed poor work attitude such as absenteeism which may be linked to low salaries, lack of equity and stagnation on the job which causes workers to supplement their incomes through private businesses.

I also observed serious Undue political interference in local government affairs coupled with lack of financial autonomy causes local governments to behave like extensions of state ministry.

The fact is, I the author, ought to have foreseen that I should appeal most strongly to the powers that be and to those who already have or had an interest in Public Administration and Urban Governance. It is always the man who has tasted quality Urban life who demands more of it. And always the man who never gets out of bed who is the most difficult to rouse.

Government and quasi-government institutions should deliver services that society needs to maintain and improve the welfare of its citizens.

Authored by: Colin S. Nyangani
Community Development Consultant

@ SirColin Personal Mastery


Tendai Guvamombe
the authorTendai Guvamombe