The idea of hiring a Cabinet on contractual terms can be quite an attractive prospect, almost an innovation in a country gripped by iniquities of clandestine deals, nepotism and shameless tribalism.
Contracts have been used to good effect by hitherto obscure Rwanda such that today Rwanda is a masterpiece of steady development, thanks to the benign strongman Paul Kagame.
But of course, this manner of human capital management requires rigour often in short supply in the public service, not least in Malawian politics where performance appraisal is almost a weird proposition.
Contracts not only call for agreed outputs and on-going intra-contractual assessment, but lots of monitoring of horizontal and vertical operations of incumbents aside from assessment of delivery of agreed sector outputs and outcomes.
Whether or not this is actually done is one thing; how well it is executed totally another. It is equally a different issue if departure from the Contract leads to sanctions knowing how emotive – if not irrational – political decisions can sometimes be.
Times abound when the so-called Contracts are but a façade of commitment to quality; smoke screens for ‘business unusual’ when it is ‘business as usual’ and in the underground even much worse than usual.
This is why I find the reaction of our leaders to people’s assessment of their own ministers’ performance strange and not-too-rational either. Perhaps the view is that the Malawian citizenry has no business assessing ministers who signed a Contract with the Head of State.
Well if that be the thinking among politicians, be told this is inherently faulty because the electorate hires the President as CEO to manage the affairs of the people’s country and the President hires staff in the form of Cabinet basically to do what the citizens want.
Let’s keep together and follow me carefully:
If citizens hire the CEO and the CEO hires the Cabinet or Management then the entire institution called Government is accountable to the citizen. This is not nuclear physics; its basic logic.
If any of the politicians who hate assessments still can’t see the logic in people’s sacred authority to assess Ministers and the President they should do themselves a favour: find and take a crash course on basics of democratic governance.
But this discourse is only by the way.
What I would like to address is the President’s Contract and what must happen if the Contract is violated by way of either performance failures or negligent exercise of the Contract.
Unpresidential tendencies of dismissive arrogance, people denigration; disregard of public opinion are serious leadership aberrations that constitute punishable negligence. Malawians will not tolerate them any longer.
By seeking to lead and accepting the high office of President, the incumbent enters into Contract with the citizenry. Call it a social contract if you will; to me it is a relationship that entails sacred accountability befitting uMunthu.
In this respect the citizens are obligated to assess the President not in arbitrary ways but through tools developed to protect them from government, while committing the President to addressing the welfare and development of the people on principles of equality and equity.
In the Oath that the Malawi President takes, they pledge to ‘do right to all manner of people according to the law without fear or favour, affection or ill-will’. This is Contractual; it is not a mundane poetic recital.
So yes, the President will be assessed by precepts of the Constitution and all Laws deriving there from. The President will be judged by Parliament which must counter balance government in ways that serve, protect and empower the electorate.
The President shall serve the development needs of the people through White Papers such as the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy drawn from ideas and dreams of the people not limited to divisive partisan manifestoes.
And this service will be assessed by the people both directly by critiquing the performance of both Ministers and the President and through the checks and balances of Parliament, the People’s House of Representatives.
The President will delegate core functions to Ministers with whom he shall sign a Contract of commitment to and quality of delivery. Similarly, Ministers will charge Secretaries who must sign Contracts with the High Office through the Presidential and Cabinet Secretary.
Logically failure or success will be attributed to the President. Not only is the President the ultimate authority; everything that transpires is on the President’s watch and accountability. There is an inescapable sacred duty!
In any case the President has the prerogative to hire and fire on the basis of Contractual dictates and to effect any such changes to the management as will assure delivery of his own Contract made with the people of Malawi.
In line with the Constitution, laws and policies, and as shareholders of the Concern that is Malawi the CEO shall be hired for five years renewable once on satisfactory delivery of the Contract as assessed by the shareholders of the Concern applying all legitimate tools of which the CEO shall have prior knowledge.
The President’s year shall start with a public presentation of annual development strategies and end with a progress report.
Shareholders will exercise the right of input into such plans and strategies through Parliament charge Cabinet and the Public Service with their delivery.
The ultimate challenge is that those who must monitor; appraise and recommend renewal or disengagement do not always have the knowhow let alone the means to exercise their power. Political CEOs and Senior Management Teams practically maim their appraisers.
Sadly even in open appraisal systems such as democracies only few pluck the courage to appraise especially under paranoid politicians who are so terrified of criticism.
In closing, the President shall always be judged by the Oath ‘to truly perform the functions of the high office of President of the Republic of Malawi, and preserve and defend the Constitution and to do right to all manner of people according to the law without fear or favour, affection or ill-will’
This is the ultimate Contract for the President.
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