By Milly Babirye Babalanda
KAMPALA, Uganda-SHIFTMEDIA- In Government, we always talk of service delivery and the public always expects service delivery, but what exactly is “service delivery” and what does it involve in actual terms?
In my tenure as minister for Presidency, my focus is on demystifying service delivery and getting everyone to understand what it means.
According to the handbook on “Principles of Service Delivery in Uganda’s Local Governments” of 2013, public service is a product delivered or activity that is carried out that meets the needs of a wide section of users.
An effective public service is one based on an undertaking by the provider to understand the needs of the users by providing information, products, and advice that are tailored to the specific needs of the users. The handbook defines service delivery as the relationship between policy makers, service providers, and consumers of those services, and which encompasses both services and their supporting systems.
Service delivery is the practical will of the concerned entity (government or organization or individual) to meet their part of an agreement. In simple terms and in relation to government, it is doing things for the people who entrust it with power. Government has a responsibility to serve the people by identifying their needs and problems and attending to them.
The process involves implementing policy work plans and fulfilling manifesto pledges (in the case of NRM which has won the mandate of Ugandans to manage their affairs over and over).
Service delivery is a task but is also very rewarding. For government, when services are delivered, people are happy and they reciprocate by supporting government programmes or voting the government back in power. Good service delivery also bears development and general wellbeing. At individual level, persons involved in implementing service programmes stand out as great leaders and servants of the people, which comes along with rewards like popularity, promotions, and benefiting from the very services they provide.
NRM has good policy ideas guided by good Political will, but what is lacking is proper understanding by government workers of their human obligation and why they hold the offices they are appointed to.
The thinking that people take jobs to earn a living is wrong and uninspiring. Every worker should be inspired by the desire to contribute and make a difference in society. Remuneration and rewards come as a consequence of the service rendered.
I always hear of civil servants sometimes being enemies of service delivery on the pretext that they are, somehow, independent of the government. This I don’t understand. The technical and political wings both belong in government and must work together to serve the public. It’s one Government!
The government’s focus is on creating value for tax payer’s money; every coin spent should be seen on the ground, since every coin spent and which works on the ground is recouped when the population is satisfied, healthy, motivated, and empowered to engage in productive initiatives.
Citizens need basic resources to live meaningful lives. These include food, housing, water, security, sanitation and health, and land. The next level of services has education, electricity, ICTs, and so on. Next is good governance and full participation in decision-making in the country’s affairs.
How are we performing on the front of service delivery? Formal assessments may differ from what the public or civil society perceives as reality but on my part, I expect us to serve the population without reservation. What should hold us back when we offered ourselves to take up these positions? Why should we fail to build roads, schools, and hospitals when the people need them and resources have been allocated?
To cheat the public of services when we know what to do and have the means to do it is the height of betrayal. I cannot afford to see unfulfilled promises and being part of a process that does not solve the problems of the common person.
That is why I call upon all those under my docket, Resident District Commissioners/Resident City Commissioners (RDCs/RCCs), to concentrate on instilling efficient service delivery in their jurisdictions. They should fully monitor and supervise their staff while making them love to serve rather than being pushed. Those who fail to match the minimum pace will find that they are left behind and everybody will shun them. The corrupt will not survive because corrupt people naturally are not good servants.
The government employs professionals who choose their careers well knowing what jobs they would serve in. If you are a teacher, teach well; if you are a road engineer, make good roads; if you are a doctor, treat people.
We still have a long way to go to achieve optimum results from our workforce. I will only count that we are getting value from that workforce when we have faster transformation across sectors and when service delivery is at a scale of, say, 70% on a mechanism that my office is developing in consultation with various stakeholders.
We are developing advanced input and output mechanisms of reporting; opening monitoring, supervision, evaluation, and reporting channels and making the public part of the process through giving feedback and doing their part in the production, paying tax, protecting government stores, and assisting in the fight against corruption which is the chief enemy of service delivery.
My office has set up a call center for the public to report any issue on service delivery. The toll-free number is 0800320320. Let us make service delivery in Uganda the best possible.
The author is the Minister for the Presidency