Gov’t secretaries to sue DPSM

National Coordinating Committee of Secretaries acting on behalf of   secretaries employed in various ministries and departments issued a notice of intention to sue Government for their dissatisfaction with the content and application of the Competency Based Career Path (CBCP) for  the  secretarial and executive office management cadre.

The secretaries  say the CBCP  is in serious breach of the  secretary’s  existing conditions of service  and  want it  be suspended and reviewed with their full participation. On 21st January 2015, the Director of Public Service Management (DPSM),  first respondent in the matter, issued Directive No 1 of 2015 titled Botswana Public Service  Competency Based Career Path for DPSM Secretarial and Executive Office Management Cadre  with the primary objective “to provide a clearly defined, motivating and rewarding career for the Secretarial and Executive Management cadre.”  The directive states that the career path was designed to prescribe qualifications and skills required for entry to various grades and to indicate progression and promotion criteria necessary for the effective operation of the secretaries.

It was also intended to define the duties, responsibilities and skills required at each level of position in the cadre and attract and retain qualified staff as well as indicate required training, development, standards of performance, progression and maintenance of efficiency and effectiveness within the cadre. The position of the secretaries is that, DPSM took a unilateral decision to set aside the existing scheme service and developed the current one.  They argue that the  “ scheme of regime  cannot be lawfully applied, if its content and application is arbitrary and consistent to the disadvantage of many  persons subject to it as it has introduced new conditions of service such as pay progression.”

They contend that the decision is irrational and breaches their legitimate expectations and violates the Public Service Act, and is consequently illegal. In their letter of instruction to their lawyer,  Gosego Lekgowe of  Dinokopila Lekgowe Attorneys, the secretaries  dissatisfaction and bone of contention is that “the CBCP has departed  from the existing conditions of employment that they had with the employer for a decade, and  that the current one   was developed  without their input, consultation and /or proper negotiation with the recognized  trade union which the employer has with , and which thousands of them are members.”
Amongst the issues of concern is that following the implementation of the Directive, Senior Executive Secretaries on D3 scale were upgraded and promoted to the position of Executive   Leadership Office Manager 1 on D2 and D1 respectively. It was only the  above mentioned officers who  were upgraded or promoted  without competition for posts, while they were not upgraded  and promoted in the similar manner despite having more experience and  performing  same functions.

Furthermore, the category of Accounting and Non accounting Officers was created, where secretaries who serve Accounting Officers earned a higher salary than those who serve  Non Accounting  Officers: “It is the client’s case that the category  had no basis in law and the Public Service Act and is arbitrary.  Secretaries who serve Accounting and Non Accounting Officers perform the same administrative and managerial functions to require no such distinction and different treatment,” Lekgowe states in the notice.

Lekgowe argues that   his clients , most of whom have been  in the public service for a long time remained  on the basis of a service regime which  until 2015 allowed them to ascend to higher positions in the public sector by virtue of experience gained from long service, distinguished performance and devotion. “The CBCP   has introduced a new regime whereby progress from one position to the aspired  position is determined by proficiency, academic and professional competencies and skills which  previously were not criteria,” he said, adding that ,  prior to implementation of CBCP,  government did  not make it a priority to take  any concerted efforts to train secretaries in order for them to acquire the strategic  and professional competences and skills which are so important  to be  a criteria in career advancement.

Although the Secretaries had notified that even with the notice,  in the interest of maintaining  good relations,  they were open  to discussing the matter with  DPSM,  at the time of going to print, DPSM had not replied to them, not had they responded to a Botswana Gazette questionnaire of 11th December. Lekgowe says he will meet Secretaries to map a way forward.