An apolitical civil service

As we gear up for the third parliamentary elections, civil service is increasingly becoming a place where political parties are headhunting for potential and prospective candidates. It is, therefore, nothing wrong when a political party approaches a civil servant, even those holding a high post. However, the problem arises when such a practice could possibly undermine the integrity and apolitical status of the civil service.

Take for example the recent story on the current cabinet secretary being offered a ticket by People’s Democratic Party to contest as one of its candidates in the upcoming elections. Similarly, there are many civil servants, who have also been approached by political parties and many of them have consented to be their candidates.

A political party approaching civil servants isn’t an issue per se. The problem is when civil servants consent and continue to work and travel to their constituencies on government expenditure. There is a thin line here, between the on official tour and the unofficial politicking. The question we are asking is, shouldn’t they first resign and then politick?

It has been articulated legally that civil service and civil servants must remain apolitical. This is because political neutrality of civil servants is paramount in ensuring good governance. This is because elected officials have fixed term tenure while it’s not the case with civil servants. This continuity, therefore, demands civil service to remain politically neutral.

Civil servants are expected to perform their duties in such a way that ensures their political neutrality is not compromised. They must do well to serve any government without fear, intimidation and favor. The political neutrality here also means being non-partisan. While civil servants ought to give their best equally to any party in power, at the same time, they should not be coerced by politicians and ministers to fulfill their political dreams. Civil service must be free from all political affluence.

But can they really be free? Isn’t there political influence already when the government goes on offering seats to civil servants holding senior posts?

The government of the day also has a significant role, especially in the promotion and dismissal of civil servants, especially during the promotion of individuals to higher office. If such appointments turn partisan, it can be construed that the rightful and deserving candidates wouldn’t get to occupy the top hierarchy in the service. Promotion then becomes a thing of who holds the party cards. Wouldn’t there be chances then that the government of the day might help individuals get promoted to higher office, especially those consenting or those the government feels they might be able to pull in in the next election?

The government of the day must strive to ensure the neutrality of civil servants in order to promote objectivity among them. Only when the latter remains neutral, they can give out their best equally to any party in power and the country at large.