By Malick Senghore
We are all very optimistic and have high expectations for the incoming team, and rightfully so. I have no doubt that the incoming administration will be very successful in the areas of free speech, human rights, and the rule of law. I also believe with all my heart that the new administration will protect and adhere to the Constitution of The Gambia. My main concern is how the incoming administration is preparing to ensure government agencies and parastatals function effectively and efficiently to meet the needs of the Gambian people. We all know that since the time of the first republic and on through the second republic, our government agencies have not functioned to our expectations in a myriad of ways. President Jawara even pointed this out in his autobiography, going as far calling the way some of the parastatals were ran as fiefdoms. We can attribute some of these to lack of leadership experience, the hiring and firing practices, corruption, nepotism, etc. I am hoping and wishing that third time is the charm.
First, the challenge is not only ensuring we make the correct hire at the top of these organizations, but making sure that we also have competent individuals at the second, third, fourth, and fifth leadership levels as well. Our government agencies fail not only because we do not have the right person at the top, but also because we do not have competent first/second/third level managers. This is where the rubber meets the road, and as much as the top person impacts the organization, the ultimate success or failure of the organization can be attributed to the quality of first/second/third level managers in the organization. For example, let’s look at a Night Supervisor of Police at Serrekunda Police Station. What are his priorities? Does he/she know how many robberies, traffic citations, break ins, disorderly conducts took place the night before or the week before or the month before in Serrekunda? How many citizen complaints against his officer were lodged the week before? What is his plan to combat or reduce these from happening? Does this mean increasing the number of patrol officers at night, or will additional training for his officers be the answer? Will a national awareness campaign in the form of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) do the trick? Do we honestly think that the current group of leaders/supervisors in the Police Force have this type of education/experience, or do we honestly think that the administration of the Police Department has the necessary infrastructure to help their supervisors become better leaders?
Next, let’s look at the Gambia Ports Authority. I am going to highlight one small but critical area that if managed properly, will contribute immensely toward improving overall customer and stakeholder satisfaction. I am referring to the GPA website. Today, one should be able to click on the GPA website and know the vessels currently at the port, vessels currently waiting to dock, vessels expected to dock next week, the GPA tariff, etc. Who at the GPA is responsible for managing this content, what are his/her deliverables? Is the information they need to update the website readily available to them in a timely manner? This is just one example of not having the right people or right processes in place to be effective and drive efficiency. Does the Managing Director of the GPA understand and value the critical role played by having and maintaining a 21st century website? Is he or she capable of hiring the right individual to take on this role?
The two examples above highlight two glaring gaps. The need to have the right people in the right positions, and the need to have a 21st century organization structure.
Here are a few recommendations:
The current transition team should create a team consisting of Gambians at home and abroad tasked with identifying, recruiting, and hiring Gambians to fill much needed leadership positions in the various agencies and parastatals.
The team should form subgroups to conduct top to bottom evaluation/root cause analysis of government agencies, beginning with the current organization structures of each agency, meet with the current leadership, identify performance gaps/staffing gaps/policies and procedure gaps/infrastructure needs/training needs, and create a Performance Improvement Plan to address the opportunities identified.
Each subgroup should have a Project Leader and a timeline to complete their review and make recommendations to the bigger group.
The above list is not all encompassing, I am sure there are others who can add more to the list above. Stay tuned for additional recommendations:
Happy New Year!