All institutions exist for a purpose. Security institutions in Malawi were instituted to ensure security of the people of Malawi, their property and to ensure that national sovereignty is protected and preserved. There has been a growing trend where civilians have been integrated into security departments over the years. In this context I am referring to Malawi Police, Prison and Immigration, which all fall under the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security; and Malawi Defence Force which is under the Ministry of Defence.
I would not want to think that there is rationality in this “unholy marriage.” Has there been any evaluation or analysis as to what repercussions this trend has on provision of security in Malawi?
It has been revealed that there were no consultations prior to the deployment of the civilian staff that is now working in the aforementioned security institutions. Despite other government institutions controlling entry of non-practioners into their institutions, security institutions have done the opposite. No surprise that, from the look of things, those departments that never resisted or planned the arrival of these so-called support staff are in bad shape. Indeed, they seem to suffer from institutional malfunction and gross inertia.
The following are among the many institutional maladies bedevilling these institutions: Inefficient and poor service delivery, rampant corruption, high staff turnover (especially failure to retain graduate recruits), no motivation to officers, failure to fill clearly existing vacancies, disparities in how promotions are happening (interval and numbers promoted in, say, four years. In fact, for Prison and Immigration promotion interviews are a miracle that happens after five or so years). Added to this is lack of training for staff, non-implementation of functional reviews, and poor sense of direction, among others.
Be that as it may, over the years, officers for these departments have trained themselves as evidenced by a pool of un-tapped competencies within them. It should be noted that at times these security officers are better trained and competent compared to the senior staff that in most cases are of the older generation who lack understanding of contemporary service delivery and are not in sync with the demands of modern civil service.
The question is: Is there need for civilian staff in management of security organs such as MDF, Malawi Police Service, Malawi Immigration and Malawi Prison Service?
It is heart-breaking in this aeon to have a human resource department that frustrates employees to resign. This has resulted in unprecedented exodus of graduates who have the potential to transform the institutions to greater heights.
Apparently, traditional careers are evaporating and one wonders if there is still a need to push employees to undergo specialised trainings, such as a degree in prison management or immigration.
One would wonder, therefore, whether Malawi has specialised universities that offer training in prison management, policing or immigration management. Further questions arise as to why no senior staff are deployed to remote immigration border posts or police stations, where management of human resource is also a requirement. If uniformed personnel are not given priority to train in management areas, financial management and the like, how do you expect them to provide sound management when these skills are lacking?
The inefficiency in these departments has far reaching consequences and it is disheartening to see how service delivery has suffered and declined in these departments.
It is my plea to the relevant authorities to carry an in-depth analysis into the matter. It is also my prayer that the Civil Service Reform Commission which is chaired by the Vice-President, will look into this matter.
A competent and well-motivated civil service is a vehicle to development and it is indeed time to “start doing business unusual”. God bless mother Malawi.
—The author is a patriotic civil servant, writing in his personal capacity.