Mbabane: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation has volunteered to propose ways to the different government departments, of selecting officers who will cover international assignments.
Foreign Affairs minister, Thuli Dladla said she hoped that the proposal might limit the tension among staff members, some of who feel are left behind when it comes to travelling overseas. Dladla said at her ministry there are desk officers who control the coverage of international assignments and not the heads of departments like directors and supervisors.
She said the desk officers are tasked with knowing what type of international assignments are there and who is qualified to cover them. She added that every morning she gets news briefs from the desk officers on how assignments have been covered. “If while going through the briefs I am not satisfied I make recommendations,” said the minister.
She said there is no way that the selections at her ministry can be biased because she gets reports every-day and will question any anomaly.
As it stands, there is no official criterion that government uses for the selection of officers who should embark on international trips but officers are randomly chosen, which backfires in terms of service delivery.
The minister shared that on the allegations made against the EBIS they will engage the ministry of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) and suggest ways of handling international trips, all to avoid tension between the officers.
Government Spokesperson, Sabelo Dlamini said he was not privy to methods used by certain government departments and all he could say was that all was simply based on the nature of the trip. He said for instance, if there is an FAO meeting oversees then the agriculture ministry will have it upon itself to determine the best candidate.
Effectively, this means that there is no statute in place to refer to in terms of who embarks on international trips and who does not, which could lead heads of departments giving in to favouratism.
A source within government who preferred anonymity revealed that such a position as the lack of statute on which to refer when making a selection for international trips has resulted in splits among junior officers. He said, repeatedly, there were those of junior officers who were chosen above others and yet returned home with more questions than answers. He further stated that it was painful that such officers went overseas financed from the public purse.
International trips come with lucrative allowances, depending on how far one goes. “This would lead to heads of government departments choosing who they feel should have more money and who should not, resulting in tension and animosity between workers,” reiterated the source. He called for parliamentary interventions and effecting of reforms.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, Sipho Tsabedze, said it was true that there was no statute in place which refers to international trips, but the responsibility rests on heads of departments. Tsabedze said officers were best known by their immediate supervisors and as principal secretaries they only approve what had been recommended to them. He said, as PSs they trusted the recommendations made by departments’ supervisors and directors. “Not even an independent body can do a better job than the internal authority structure,” stated the PS.
Asked if supervisors and their directors would not be tempted to select their favourites despite incompetence, the PS said they would only make recommendations in the event an officer returned from an assignment empty handed. He said all they sought as government departments was service delivery and anyone who didn’t fit in this category would be left out for eternity. “We suppose that supervisors and their directors will not only consider job description but performances on the part of their staff,” said the PS.
Reiterating the PS’ words, ex-EBIS Director and government spokesperson, Percy Simelane said he is not aware of any government statute or criteria that is used to select officers for international trips. He said from the point of view of the journalism profession, professionally the assignment of reporters is the exclusivity of the News Editors or Principal Editors (Directors) based on the strength of the practicing journalist in the field to be reported on, which are either politics, environmental issues or economics. “This is the norm globally,” stated the ex-director.