Vice-President Saulos Chilima yesterday revived the public sector reforms drive by challenging parastatal heads to deliver results in line with public sector reforms or pave the way for competent people.
Chilima, who is also Minister of Economic Planning and Development and Public Sector Reforms, met Central Region-based directors of finance and chief executive officers (CEOs) of parastatals to appreciate the status of public sector reforms before embarking on a new reform roadmap.
In an interview after the meeting held in camera at Bingu International Convention Centre yesterday, the Veep said the new reforms are aimed at reaching a desired state that is responsive, efficient and effective in service delivery.
He said: “We have given all parastatals an assignment to do; to review where they are, their financial health and share with us plans both from the reforms perspective and general business perspective.
“We have said that there will be consequences. If people are not performing, they must be shown the exit door because we need competent people to improve service delivery. People that have entrusted us with the responsibility to lead must reap the benefits.”
During the meeting, the Veep asked parastatals to submit a reforms status report by next Friday to enable him understand what has been happening in the reforms, which were launched in 2015.
He said, thereafter, he will be engaging individual parastatals on a quarterly basis to take stock of the gains to ensure improvement on service delivery.
Chilima said the performance reports will feed into the planning process of the 2020/21 National Budget, after which they will look at the country’s long-term development plan.
He noted that the performance of parastatals was a mixed bag, characterised by successes and failures; hence, the need for reforms to take effect to turn around the misfortunes.
The Vice-President said: “There is need to work very hard to catch up on the lost time. We need to change the way we think. It’s going to be a long process and slow, but I can assure you that we will move at a faster pace than before. It can’t be the case that we should be in the same position five years from now. That’s completely unacceptable.”
During the engagement, Chilima said he noted that some directors and managers were on acting employment basis and recommended they should immediately be reviewed for confirmation or removed.
Said the Veep: “I also noted that most CEOs keep on being transferred from one parastatal to another. This tendency must be looked into. If one is incompetent in one organisation, they cannot become competent by simply moving to another parastatal.
“The take home message for everyone was that this is a new administration and as such they must not live in the past because doing so will be unnecessarily dangerous for their jobs. This is time to work hard.”
In a separate interview, Lilongwe City Council chief executive officer John Chome said as part of reforms, the council has been looking at its processes to ensure they achieve desired resource mobilisation to deliver better public services.
“There has been progress in cleaning up the council. The council was known for many bad things but today we are saying no to corruption and theft. We are saying no to laziness, we culture,” he said.are building a new organisational
On his part, National Planning Commission director general Thomas Munthali said the commission is participating in the meetings to ensure that the parastatal reforms are aligned to the country’s long-term vision.
He said the commission was glad that the Vice-President told parastatal heads that contracts should be performance-based and that people should be given milestones on deliverables to track whether they are performing or not.
Asked what the average performance of parastatals has been in the past few years, chief director responsible for reforms Seodi White declined to comment.
A CEO from one of the commercial parastatals, who did not want to be named, said the Vice-President was straightforward in his demands from parastatal heads.
“The meeting went well. The Vice-President was straightforward on the need for mindset change. He challenged us to change the way we conduct business and to each write and submit performance reports and plans,” said the CEO.
Meanwhile, University of Malawi’s The Polytechnic economics lecturer Betchani Tchereni has commended the move by Chilima to engage with parastatal heads, saying it is high time parastatal CEOs and the executive management were held accountable.
“Lazy people must be shown the door. Anybody who wants to enjoy benefits without having to work for them must go home instead of frustrating the development agenda,” he said.
Yesterday’s meeting started at 9am pronto, with Chilima arriving 10 minutes before time. Doors to the venue were closed at 9.15am and about 10 latecomers had to wait until tea break to get in.
Tomorrow, Chilima is expected to meet CEOs for Blantyre and Zomba city councils at Sunbird Mount Soche in Blantyre while on Friday, he is scheduled to meet CEOs from the private sector.
Chilima–who before joining frontline politics in 2014 worked as the first Malawian managing director for multinational Airtel Malawi–will then meet directors of finance from the Northern Region, including Mzuzu City Council CEO, on Monday.
The public sector reforms were launched in 2015 and Chilima was the first to champion the reforms before he was replaced. During the launch, heads of parastatals signed contracts of expected deliverables over a period of time.