Civil servants get a helping hand

Jun 8, 2011

Nursing is one of the areas which will receive much-needed support © UNDP / Jenn Warren

A strong civil service is crucial to achieving efficient and transparent governance. It also plays a key role in effective service delivery, community security and economic development.

The Government of the new Republic of South Sudan is facing major staffing challenges within the public sector. This relates not only to the shortage of skilled personnel, but also to the highly unbalanced distribution of existing staff both geographically and functionally.

At the moment, 80 percent of civil servants are concentrated into only 31 of South Sudan’s 79 counties. Close to a third of staff are serving in the fields of police, prisons and security, while only a fraction (3.7 percent) hold posts in the much-needed field of agricultural development.

In response, the Government joined forces with three member States of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, to boost the capacity of the civil service.

On 6 June, the Minister of Labour and Public Service, Madam Awut Deng Acuil, and the Minister of Health, Dr. Luka Manoja, welcomed 42 Kenyan civil service support officers to an induction workshop for the GOSS/IGAD Regional Initiative for Capacity Enhancement in South Sudan.

These officers are the first of 200 being deployed to take part in a twinning programme through which they will provide mentoring and coaching to their South Sudanese counterparts as part of the broader endeavour to strengthen the new State.

After years of conflict, the capacity of the South Sudan civil service is weak. However, successful statebuilding projects, such as in Mozambique, have shown that this kind of on the job training can build up skills quickly.

“It is a great day and a dream come true,” said Madam Awut Deng, whose Ministry is leading the Initiative for the Government. She added that they are “very grateful to the Government of Kenya for taking the lead and showing their commitment.” Kenya has been running a technical assistance programme in South Sudan since 2006 and has pledged $5 million over the next three years.

The Ministry of Health is receiving 20 specialist doctors and experienced nurses from Kenya. “We are excited,” the Minister of Health, Dr. Luka Manoja, told the medics, “we are looking forward to receiving a service provider as well as training. We have very young doctors with limited clinical experience and they will be looking to you to strengthen their skills.”

He added that the Kenyan medical professionals might be shocked by the lack of facilities, but that it also shows what an impact they will have in a country where the sick generally have no healthcare options. “The long period of lack of services has made some people think there is nothing to do, you just wait until you die.”

Joe Feeney, Head of Office for UNDP in South Sudan added that the Initiative goes beyond providing services; it is an act of solidarity. “This is about Africa supporting Africa,” he said “and taking responsibility for a poorer area that has suffered tremendously.”

The Norwegian Government is providing funds of US$10m for the initiative while UNDP is playing a facilitating role.