Public service must tick without being forced to

16Feb 2016
The Guardian
Public service must tick without being forced to

INDICATIONS that our public sector seldom works properly unless there is a presidential or other executive order are cause for grave concern and ought to be addressed with the urgency and seriousness they surely deserve.

Only days ago, Muhimbili National Hospital announced that its revenue had leapt by a handsome 1.7bn/- – from 2.6bn/- to a staggering 4.3bn/- – in a matter of two months.

The increase was ascribed to the redeployment of equipment that had lain idle for quite some time awaiting repairs. The equipment in question were a CT-scanner and what is known as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine.

One can now safely say that, were it not for the executive intervention by none other than President John Magufuli, both machines would still be collecting dust and cobwebs – wherever it was that they lay. But they were soon rehabilitated, though intermittent breakdowns were experienced.

In his very first week in office, the president made an impromptu visit to the hospital only to find scores of patients admitted there lying on the floor. The hospital was also soon presented with a consignment of beds.

But there was at least one more challenge that called for urgent attention: the lack of beds aside, some patients had spent weeks or even months waiting for crucial checkups so that treatment could begin.

While the country’s biggest referral hospital was said to be too cash-strapped to buy beds only as recently as two months ago, it has registered an increase of a hefty 1.7bn/- in revenue. Miracle? And the impact of the president’s trademark impromptu tours and directives did not end there
While at the Finance and Planning ministry’s offices, President Magufuli demanded improved revenue collections. Hardly a month later, (December 2015), the Tanzania Revenue Authority broke its monthly revenue collection record by far. In fact, reports said it shot beyond 1.3 trillion/- – a 450bn/- increase.
Of course, some sources attributed part of the rise to collection of tax arrears from defaulters.

Now, one of Dar es Salaam roads most notorious for traffic jams is Old Bagamoyo, which stretches for some 65.6km from the city centre all the way to the historical coastal town of Bagamoyo.

Without less traffic congestion, driving at normal speed from downtown Dar es Salaam to Bagamoyo takes just over an hour. However, as most motorists would attest, covering the much shorter distance between the Morocco commuter bus station to the Mwenge roundabout can take 45 minutes or more.

This particular section is a mere 4.5 km and, without the curse of traffic jams, would take under 15 minutes. And the horror of the traffic congestion there is as old as Old Bagamoyo Road itself –that is, of course, until President Magufuli demanded (and financed) its expansion.

The story goes on and on: by executive order, cancer patients are getting treated, revenue collection is skyrocketing, decades-old urban traffic woes are addressed, etc., etc.

As the president is showered with praise for most of these ‘rare feats’, one wonders whether our public sector will ever function properly on its own – that is, without feeling compelled to implement orders from above.

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