Points to ponder in building vibrant institutions

As part of the overarching national reform program and overhauling the economic development of the country, building democratic institutions entails a number of principles and challenges that need to be addressed accordingly.

In congruence with the need to build reform accelerating public and private professionals, promoting quality and innovative practical education is critical for producing and staffing management and staff level professionals in the most meritocratic manner.

It is very important to strictly adhere to operational regulations and systemic approach instead of running an institution on casual desires and assumptions of the leaders or those who claim that they are the last words in institutional decision making.

Building a culture of achievements by setting clear and participatory operational guidelines and sustained reward systems will help to promote creative innovation which will promote sustained change management. This is very important because some staff members or even sections of the management could be repulsive to changes taking it as a threat to their positions or expected rewards.

Time management in institutional reforms is not only about keeping track of staff business time but is also about timely quality output. Practical ownership of the goals, mission and vision of the concerned institutions would help to increase staff commitment to their duties. Participatory and transparent management systems are key factors for increasing staff confidence on the management.

Here, it is very useful to make a clear distinction between institutions for promoting democracy and democratic institutions. The latter cater for fostering good governance and democracy in institutions. Democratic institutions refer to the collective approach in decision making pattern in institutions.

In Ethiopia, building new reform oriented institutions is constantly challenged by continuous changes in government structures over the last four decades. Although the bureaucracy has somehow remained intact and impervious, ideological overtones, desires and whims of the leaders were always behind changes in government nomenclature.

Institutional autonomy or self-monitored and evaluative decision making is usually professed depending on the legal accountability of the institutions but in most cases decisions are made and not necessarily communicated to the rank and file.

The importance of the rule of law and moral standards is usually tampered with wasting business time for personal gain or making institutions subservient to the desire of the few who have constant contact with the management. Innovative ideas from staff or new approaches in business are systematically ignored or even rebuked. Staff members consider themselves simply as inert employees who should wait for their remunerations on the designated date.

Institution leaders are usually placed on key duties not so much because they are capable of carrying out their duties but simply because they are expected to fill some kind of ethnic quota of employment.

Lack of basic knowledge and skills on the part of those engaged in frontline service delivery units, their vulnerability to corruption, less commitment to public satisfaction and negative attitude towards their own work characterizes the psychology of non-skilled or semi-skilled employees in the public service.

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