Acting positions in public offices raise eye brows

Keeping people acting in senior positions in government departments and parastatal organizations for a long time without being confirmed is not good for management and compromises good governance principles, local activists have said.

Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) Executive Director, Dr Hellen Kijo Bisimba

Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) Executive Director, Dr Hellen Kijo Bisimba

Several sensitive institutions including Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS), Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco), Tanzania Airports Authority (TAA), Tanzania Ports Authority, Public Sector Pensions Fund, Air Tanzania Company Limited and several others have executives working on acting basis.

Speaking to the ‘Sunday News’ in Dar es Salaam, the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) Executive Director, Dr Hellen Kijo Bisimba, Tanzania Tobacco Control Forum (TTCF)’s Executive Director, Lutgard Kagaruki and Civil and Political Rights Watch (CPRW)’s Executive Director, Marcossy Albanie, said such people should briefly act in senior executive positions.

“Keeping people in acting positions for too long is not good because we have plenty of qualified candidates to fill such vacancies,” said Dr Bisimba who argued that if people have been kept in acting positions for too long then they should be confirmed.

“Bringing completely new people to occupy such positions is also not good because someone who stayed on the job for a long time means they performed well,” she argued, saying if people are incompetent then they should be kept in acting positions only briefly.

Dr Bisimba who was a civil servant before joining the activism world said senior officials in acting management positions cannot make key decisions, hence, affect performance of the institutions involved. TTCF’s Executive Director Kagaruki who retired from the civil service recently, said it was against public service regulations to keep anyone acting in a senior management position for more than six months.

“Sensitive institutions like the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare cannot be kept without Permanent Secretary and Chief Medical Officer for more than six months,” Ms Kagaruki argued. The Ministry has had no Permanent Secretary who is the chief executive officer of the ministry since mid last year following the suspension of its PS, Ms Blandina Nyoni and the ministry’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Deo Mtasiwa respectively.

She argued that the government should either confirm those who have been acting as PS and CMO or fill such positions as soon as possible, because without the two senior officials the ministry’s key task of delivering quality health services is frustrated.

CPRW’s Executive Director Albanie said there is serious shortage of senior staff at the Ministry of State, Prime Minister’s Office Local Government and Regional Administration which has affected service delivery to the public. “This big gap is a result of the government’s decision to suspend recruitment between 1988 and 2000 which also affected skills development funding for those employed.”

Albanie further argued that the government should now recruit senior officials on a competitive basis instead of making appointments of such key executives based on their loyalty to the appointing boards or authority. “But those currently in government service should be allowed to pursue further studies and upgrade their level of education,” the CPRW chief pointed out.

A senior official from Ministry of State in the President’s Office responsible for Public Service said most of the positions are filled by boards of relevant institutions. “Very few places currently with people acting are appointed by the president which will be done soon,” he said.

By FINNIGAN WA SIMBEYE, Tanzania Daily News