Promotion limitations for public servants; another form of discrimination

When I attend official events, the most emotional part for me is when the national and AU anthems are sung.
It is emotional because the beautiful sounds of the anthems touch my patriotic veins and I feel the songs in my bones. At that moment, I drop a tear or two for the fallen heroes and heroines of the Land of the Brave in particular and the African continent at large.
That is when I tell myself there is no other country I would rather live in other than Namibia, because I am patriotic and will stay true to this land regardless.
Despite all the negative sentiments being thrown around about what Government has done for the masses out there from independence to date, I personally think it has actually done a lot considering that we are just in our early 20 years of independence. Certain things, such as black economic empowerment (BEE), perfect health and education services might take a while to realise, because they require hard work, time, knowhow and commitment as has been proven in the national budget over the years.
Employment creation is another concern and the answer lies in industrial development and economic inclusion. That bring me to the main point of this article; employment creation.
It is a national concern, alright, but the question should be the quality of employment; in terms of salaries and wages, fringe benefits, employee motivation, capacity development and career growth and development opportunities. These considerations should not only be for the private sector but for Government as well.
It is well known that Government is the largest employer in the country, with a workforce of around 100 000 people. Most people work for Government because of job security and other benefits, such as medical aid, housing subsidy and pension. I have always argued that Government is the highest paying institution, if we have to consider the indirect payments, such as time, workload and fringe benefits.
With the new re-grading, Government has just proven its commitment towards ensuring that public servants are paid market-related salaries to keep up with the ever changing cost of living.
I have come across quite a considerable number of people wishing to work for Government after the re-grading – including some of my friends who previously swore never work for the Government. I really have to take my hat off to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) for that economically sound move for the public servant.
Now that the re-grading is done, we need to think about the future. We can now attract better knowledge to the public service for the benefit of our country in terms implementing our national projects and programmes. The question, however, still remains: Are we able to retain such knowledge for long? Do we have enough incentives in place to ensure those joining the public service will stay for the next 10 years? Or will we still give them experience and then they’ll move to the private sector? The answer is, NO WE DON’T!
Why do I say NO?
Firstly, Government doesn’t have performance related incentives that exist in the private sector. People need to be recognised for the effort they put in their daily work. The public service should consider introducing employee motivation initiatives in different forms. It can be monetary or non-monetary as long as the employees feel their efforts are recognised and appreciated.
The challenge will be choosing the right form of incentivising for all employees in a manner that is satisfactory to everyone. But allowing each line O/A/M to introduce their incentive initiatives can lessen the headache for OPM.  
Secondly, Government will not be able to retain the knowledge and experienced workers because there are no immediate career growth opportunities for the public servants within the public service. According to the public service staff rules; “A staff member may only apply for a post on the next higher functional level than the one s/he is on within the job category concerned. This limitation does not apply to advertised positions for appointment in terms of Section 19 of the Public Service Act, 1995 (Act 13 of 1995)”.
That means if you are a development planner you need to become a senior development planner then chief development planner before you can apply for a deputy director position then director, regardless of your qualifications and years of experience. Mind you, that limitation is only for people employed in the public service. Therefore, as an example, a senior researcher in the private sector with a 10 year-experience and a Bachelors Degree in economics or public administration can qualify to become a deputy director for planning in the public service. On the other hand, a senior development planner in the public service with a Master’s Degree in economics or public administration and 12 years’ experience doesn’t qualify because they first need to become chief development planner.
If such a policy was made before independence then it would have been considered “discrimination”. So how should it be considered now that it was made by our own Government? Well, I will call it “DISCRIMINATORY” and I think Dr Hage Geingob should ensure that this condition is abolished before he takes up the high seat in the country.
 “The Public Service Commission prides itself in being “the arbiter of transparency and fairness of recruitment and selection in the Public Service”. Well, maybe the only word that fits in that quote is transparency but not fairness as long as that limitation on promotion is in place. Positions are advertised with specific requirements and that should define who qualifies for a specific position rather than the limitation set by the public service rules and it only apply to those in the public service.
As long as that limitation remains in place young people will keep gaining experience in the public sector and joining the private sector for career growth. The knowledge is still in the country, as the government keeps saying, but it is not contributing directly to the implementation of national projects and programmes. Government continues to invest in career development for the public servants by sending them for post graduate studies and the likes, therefore, it is time to open up the system for these people to take up strategic positions and contribute to the realisation of our national goals.
Tate Mike is an Economist by profession and is currently pursuing a MSc in International Management (Oil & Gas) with the University of Liverpool.