Public Sector’s Unprofessionalism Unfrotunate to Economy

Unprofessionalism is nowhere as pronounced in the public sector than at district offices that provide essential services to local and foreign businesses. Be it the procedures to start a business, or renewal, customers at the mercy of a public servant are beset with inconveniences. Often, the officials are rude, and professional gaffes are committed left and right.

From afar, these individuals seem approachable, until of course they are approached for service. If customers are not fluent in Amharic, the type of service goes from bad to worse. Experience shows that it is hard to find bilingual staff. They may be creating jobs for interpreters, but the mystery is the qualifications these staff members have.

From cleanliness to lack of awareness and impoliteness, it is easy to drift away from the plan that brought anyone to the district office. Inevitably it is simple to observe that the public servants are not up to par. Waiting in confusion is a typical experience of the many that make the journey to their district’s offices. At the very least, the public service sector must espouse the values of integrity, neutrality and fairness. It requires the merit system in setting up professional structures from recruitment to promotions. In practice, though, merit is nowhere to be found.

Instead, customers are bombarded with the usual inefficient systems which include, but are not limited to, legal document mismanagement, tardiness, countless meetings, postponing appointments and absenteeism are just some of the few. Triggered by lack of skills and rampant abuse of public resources, bribery gets things done much more quickly. These are terrifying to anyone looking to do business and stifles private investment by chasing away upstanding citizens.

Is this lack of leadership or awareness lost in the populace?

It is quite common to be witty about the problem in the public service sector. Nonetheless, it is no laughing matter. Being a victim of unprofessionalism is never humorous. Regardless of the fact that some at the official level can score a job without having the skill, the crisis is no longer about receiving lousy service. Instead, the long-term implications of such unprofessionalism are that they have created a culture that is sipping into recruits. Some can argue that for a country with such a large population, many living under the poverty line and 16pc of the adult population unemployed, professionalism is a luxury. But even those constraints cannot justify the society’s preference to tolerate unprofessionalism. It is further pushing the country into the poverty quagmire.

It is easy to give up. And praying for a solution has not brought so much change thus far. It is just one of the many things that the state has no clue how to repair. Owing to an endless, overwhelming number of problems, going with the flow, ignoring the matters, has become customary. And this tears the economy apart. Those who cry for better are obscured by those who keep quiet.

Ever notice the Ethiopian attitude that things will automatically fall into place if one just hopes for the better?

This backward view is too good to be true – it is not and is unrealistic. It is a small example of Ethiopian’s poor work culture. It is a problem that should find its solution both in policy decisions and with the populace’s attitude towards work.

Identifying such failures could lead to a better understanding of what is necessary to be productive. Being open to problems will help determine the reason for such issues, generating a possible solution in the future. It allows professionalism to grow and increases productivity. Ignoring it, on the other hand, will backfire on the private sector, employment opportunities and the national economy. Avoiding it is just plain unethical. Denying it to skirt around the issue, as it reflects our own detest towards hard work, is wrong. The state, guardian of public resources and protector of citizen’s interests, in deserting this fundamental responsibility is also doing a disservice to the country.

The public service, comprised of staff members of the state, shielded by their labour laws, play a fundamental and widespread role. They can maintain growth and good governance of the service sector, which is the main contributor to the economy. Their professionalism can be what determines economic activity. It includes all other values that theoretically guide the public service such as literacy, transparency, attentiveness, punctuality, effectiveness and impartiality. A neutral administrative structure can function as the pillar of the state in executing strategies for the economic evolution of a nation.

Given these vital roles, it is only legitimate to expect the public service to demonstrate high standards of professionalism and ethics. Maybe this seems too much to ask for those that believe such days are far away, but it is a necessary step to be taken. Perhaps, promotion and recruitment should be more stringent than ever. Or it could be instilling an uncomplicated, yet profound, shift in outlook on the already serving public servants. Such reforms, if taken seriously, with rigorous evaluation of employees, can and will change the fundamental nature of underperformance and grave unprofessionalism.

By Eden Sahle
Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc who has studied Law and International Economic Law. She can be reached at

Published on Nov 11,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 915]



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