Employee Perceptions of Leadership and Performance Management in the Botswana Public Service

Article excerpt

During the past three decades, Botswana has acquired a reputation for sound development management and good governance. That reputation has been derived primarily from the behavior and performance of the country's public servants. Some analysts have argued, for example, that the positive performance of the public service in Botswana, compared to other African countries, is the direct result of the fact that the public sector is mostly staffed by competent men and women motivated to fulfill their duties honestly and effectively. (1)

Moreover, the country's public affairs have been managed in a transparent manner by a public service that can be regarded as being apolitical, and one where public servants are held accountable. Public servants in Botswana play an important role as partners in the management of the public sector and national affairs. It is the bureaucracy and not the political leadership, contrary to conventional thinking, that has been the dominant factor in the country's policy-making and implementation. (2) The most recent data (2000) indicate that there are 121,035 employees in the Botswana public sector with a distribution of 85,690 (71 percent) working for the central government; 18,847 (15 percent) working for local government; and 16,498 (14 percent) employed by parastatals. (3)

Consistent with the record and reputation of the public service, compared to other African countries, Botswana has also been able to react rapidly to any real or perceived deficiencies in the management of its development policy so as to maintain the necessary administrative capacity for economic development and progress. (4) This article discusses and analyzes employee perceptions of leadership and performance management in the Botswana public service in light of the foregoing discussion on the nature and functioning of the country's public servants. It is based on a sample survey of, and focus group discussions with, employees in two major central government institutions that were conducted in 1999. For technical and other practical reasons, these two institutions will not be identified here. They will, instead, be referred to as Institution A and Institution B. They were chosen for their separate and distinct public reputations. Institution A tends to be highly regarded as an efficient government agency while Institution B is seen as under-performing.

Methodology

The methods used to collect the opinions of the employees were a questionnaire and focus group discussions. A total of 110 questionnaires were administered to junior management and general staff members of the two institutions, comprising 8 percent of the total number of employees in these institutions. The questionnaire was a fairly comprehensive and detailed instrument covering the various areas indicated in the next section.

Focus group discussions immediately followed the completion of the questionnaire. These were designed to supplement the rich information contained in the questionnaire responses. These focus group discussions developed into lively and very frank discussions about a range of relevant issues, and provided impactful insights into the views of the public servants regarding leadership and performance management. They also offered a thorough impression of the organizational culture of the two institutions.

Findings and Discussion

Leadership and Organizational Planning

Employee perceptions about leadership and organizational planning revealed a mixed bag across the two institutions. In Institution A, the quality of leadership and organizational planning was rated very high. This institution has demonstrated its recognition of the need for change and re-engineering by commissioning external reviews of its operations and recommendations for improving performance and efficiency Furthermore, it has been engaged in some degree of strategic planning and has been attempting to link its strategic planning activities to its operational policies at all levels of the organization. …