Most States these days have a developmental mission.
Governments accept the philosophy of State participation in the economy. The State uses the civil service as its agency for carrying out developmental goals, among others.
Once we mention the civil service, the term bureaucracy comes to mind. Though bureaucratic structures are also found in non-governmental organisations such as churches and corporations, we usually associate bureaucracy with the civil service.
What is the definition of bureaucracy?
The intellectual world owes the definition and analysis of bureaucracy to Max Weber, the German sociologist.
Weber spelt out five characteristics.
1.Â Â Clear levels of positions
In organisations such as the civil service, each level assigns responsibilities or duties to the lower level. Accountability flows upwards. Junior officers are unanswerable to senior officers, not vice-versa.
2.Â Â A division of labour
Each worker has a specific task to perform. All the tasks are coordinated to accomplish the purpose of the organisation.
3.Â Â Written rules
In their attempt to be efficient, bureaucracies stress written procedures. Instructions are given by senior to junior officers through minutes or circulars.
4.Â Â Written communication
Records of what happens in a bureaucracy are kept. Heads of departments or sections submit annual reports listing what they have accomplished during the year.
5.Â Â Impersonality and replaceability
It is the office that is important not the person occupying it. Staff in a ministry obeys what the principal secretary says not because he/she is so and so, but because he/she is the principal secretary.
When the person quits, whosoever takes over will receive the same compliance. You work for an organisation not personalities holding high offices. The equipment which incumbents use does not belong to them personally, but to the organisation. When they leave office, they surrender the equipment to the organisation.
These characteristics help bureaucracies to reach their goals, but there are public complaints about the red tape found in civil services.
In Malawi, outside observers say it takes long to get a licence to start a business. The level of corruption in Malawi is not the worse in the world, but it is definitely too high.
Popular newspapers now and again publish news about irregular awarding of contracts by civil servants and such matters often just end there. No prosecution, no conviction.
Inefficiencies found in bureaucracies are said to arise from alienation. Some civil servants are dissatisfied with their jobs either because of pay or something else. While a few quit to look for greener pastures elsewhere, many remain in their jobs.
They hate their jobs and underperform; their attitudes towards authority or members of the public leaves a lot to be desired.
During colonial days, a civil servant who was not performing usually was asked to retire.
These days, alienated workers usually hang on. If someone suggests removing them from their positions, they threaten to take time-consuming and embarrassing legal action.
It is a waste of public resources when due to hasty dismissals, courts award the aggrieved millions of kwacha, making them instant millionaires in a country where the average citizen is said to subsist on half a dollar a day.
Incompetencies in bureaucracies have parodied the Peter Principle which states that each employee is promoted to his or her level of incompetency. He or she continues to obtain promotions until they reach a certain level where they get no more promotions because they cannot do higher jobs.
In this position, they just claim credit for the work done by their subordinates.
Although there is a grain of truth in the Peter Principle, it is a fact that no better systems for getting things done in mega organisations such as civil service has been found to replace the bureaucracy.
If Malawi is to succeed as a developmental State, an attempt should be made to overhaul the civil service.
Two sociologists, Peter Evans and James Rauch, researched on 35 developing countries and found that prosperity come to those that had central bureaucracies that hired workers according to merit.