This question had been put to me by outgoing Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, during a long and cordial conversation I had with him, before the investiture of his government in Parliament.
Isidore KWANDJA NGEMBO, political scientist and public policy analyst
Isidore Kwandja Ngembo
The Prime Minister of President Félix Tshisekedi’s first government had done me the honour of sharing with me his experience of the reform of public enterprises that he had led. He then listened attentively to me talk to him about the need to reform the Congolese public administration. If my memory does not fail me, it was on Thursday, 5 September 2019 at 13:30, in his private office at Kempinski Hotel Congo River, the day before his inauguration by the National Assembly on Friday, 6 September 2019.
We discussed at length on the priority areas of reform of the Congolese public administration, hoping to achieve concrete results and have a long-term impact of the action of his government.
We then moved to his private room, where we were joined by the Canadian ambassador, Nicolas Simard, and continued the conversation between the three of us on the same subject for quite a while, before the ambassador withdrew and, at the request of the Prime Minister, I stayed for some time to continue the exchange on the same subject.
I was very impressed and seduced by its simplicity, its austerity and above all its willingness to engage in a process of deep and necessary structural reforms to effectively combat the phenomenon of fictitious agents emitting from the State budget. In any case, I thought I had found in the Prime Minister an attentive ear for the effective implementation of an ambitious reform that would enable the government to control the real number of agents and civil servants in the public services of the State.
Alas, after almost twenty months at the head of the government, not much has been done in this area. The government has not been able to draw up a complete picture of the actual number of civil servants in the civil service, and therefore has not been able to control the wage bill allocated to staff actually serving the state. Fictitious agents continue to eat up the civil service budget en masse.
Priority areas for reform
Public administration reform is still to be carried out and will have to go hand in hand with the adoption of new legal frameworks aimed at greater transparency, accountability and efficiency of the civil service, to enable the Democratic Republic of Congo to align itself with the path of development.
The priority areas of reform that will need to be carried out, in the short and medium term, will include: a freeze on public service hiring; a rigorous and systematic census of public servants, to eradicate the plethora of fictitious civil and military agents; modernisation and rationalisation of the pay system and salary incentives; and investment in human capital and lifelong training, in order to feel the benefits in the long term.
This being said, the success of the next government’s programme will depend to a large extent on the capacity of the Congolese public administration to implement the public policies defined by the government and to manage public funds responsibly in order to achieve the very specific objectives.
In any case, we continue to believe that unless a profound reform is undertaken, the civil service, in its current configuration, will not enable the next government to provide appropriate services to citizens, manage the economy wisely, improve the business climate and promote the development of the private sector that creates jobs. All well-intentioned political statements and speeches will remain dead letters.
Isidore Kwandja Ngembo, political scientist and public policy analyst