What is expected of you when you hold public office – Business Daily
Camera focus on a boss chair. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK
The public sector is always a key sector when it comes to human resources and employment opportunities. Since this is a sector that also actualises principles and values of the public, the Constitution contemplates what is expected of State officers in Article 232.
The principles are further effected in the Public Service Act number 1A of 2015.
The conduct of public officers is also regulated by the Public Officers Ethics Act Number 7 of 2007 revised 2009, which provides for a Code of Conduct and Ethics for public officers.
Popular with this Act has been the requirement for financial declarations from certain public officers and to provide for connected purposes. But of importance is professional conduct once in office.
Considering that Kenya just went through a competitive electioneering process, having emerged from the global pandemic and stagflation of the economy all eyes are on the public sector. As can be of any new administration, occupancy of key high-level positions is a point of interest.
The expected appointment of Cabinet secretaries, the most recent advertisement of PSs, and other senior government officials in all state organs at the national and county government level is linked to the Constitution.
Global benchmarks that provide parameters for effective and efficient management and governance — the Human Development Index, Ease of Doing Business, Corruption Perception Index and the Global Competitiveness — show that Kenya is not doing so well in all spheres.
To promote these, principles and values of public service must be upheld, practised, measured and held accountable. These conditions would stimulate and spearhead the revival of the economy if only they were anchored on values and principles of public service.
What is the role of professional bodies in this respect? The persons expected to occupy various positions in public service are drawn from multiple professions that offer key services in various sectors. The professional bodies also have a responsibility to support in providing accountability to their members who are serving in the public sector.
To provide accountability for professional conduct, the bodies must also provide support to the public officer by acknowledging them as professionals. As always required, most if not all, positions advertised have the requirements of membership in professional bodies.
When then is the relevance of these requirements? Since these professional bodies are characterised by establishment through statute such as, the existence of a regulatory board or council, registered and licensed membership, a code of practice, subscription to continuous learning and professional development, and maintenance of good professional standing by members, how then can they be linked to the public service.
These overarching pillars always provide a framework upon which the conduct of public officers can be put on check and balanced from a professional point of view.
Whether public or private, service delivery to citizens is critical to economic growth. And improvement for any organization is majorly dependent on its human resources and development policies.
To support this, is the existence of human resource management plans, human resource development plans, organizational performance agreements/ contracts, and performance measurement systems with a functional staff appraisal system that provides an accountability reporting framework to the citizens.
Key to various policies on human resources is the performance management that needs to be anchored on good behaviour.
For any growing economy, running an efficient government depends on the calibre of its leadership and workforce. This starts with having empowered, responsive civil servants to fill the correct positions in Government, which can make decisions, be innovative and still have democratic accountability as a professional.
Several times as witnessed; this has not been the accurate picture of the majority of the appointed officer. At the same time, quite a number strive to demonstrate this professionalism, is leaving many to wonder how professionalism is linked to public service. Hence the question of professional behaviour and adherence to policies
In this present age, an efficient and accountable government can only benchmark practices of “new public management”, a paradigm that emerged in the 1980s. New Public Management (NPM) is a paradigm of a different relationship between the Government in its policy directions, the public service workforce, and the public to bring accountable operational excellence in service delivery.
As understood, values and principles of public service would be a key driver for this perspective. How should we enforce policies that guide our conduct as a nation? To what extent are they enforceable? Something that haunts advocates for “new public management”.
Dr Onyango is Associate Dean of Research and Innovation and Senior Lecturer at Strathmore University, where he lectures on strategic HR management in the master’s programme in public policy management