THERE is widespread agreement about the importance of the duty of service to the public. When this subject of service to the public is brought up in ordinary conversation, most people think of a face-to-face telephone transaction with a public servant. When they arrive at the counter as a customer they want efficiency.
In other words, they expect the wicket to be open at convenient times and they expect prompt and competent attention to their concerns.
Moreover, the customers (in this case the public) want the service to meet their needs – to be effective. Finally, they want the reassurance that they are being treated fairly; that is, receiving the same treatment as others unless relevant reasons to treat them differently have been presented.
In short, in all of their dealings with the public, public servants are expected to be courteous, efficient, effective, and fair. Public servants should provide service to the public in a manner which is courteous, equitable, efficient and effective. They should also be sensitive and responsive to the changing needs, wishes and rights of the public and to promote excellence in public service.
Values such as competence, courtesy, efficiency, effectiveness, fairness and accessibility are found in various guises in the codes of conduct of professionals working in the government. Many of these codes focus particular attention on the allocation of responsibility in decision-making between the professional and the client.
Right from the word go after independence, the government of Tanzania stressed the duty of service to the public. It established various principles that service delivery should be consumer-oriented, timely, sensitive to the public’s needs, and equitable; it should be accompanied by appropriate levels of information and be provided with due regard for the rights of individuals, their comfort, convenience, safety, and security, and finally, the public must be provided with recourse and response in the event of dissatisfaction
In a modern democracy, public servants are provided with enormous discretionary power in the management of the society’s resources and the handling of significant aspects of citizens’ lives. A fundamental obligation within the democratic system is that this discretionary power not be abused.
Public servants have a duty not only to identify the widest public interest in the exercise of discretionary power, but also to exercise that power in a manner which reflects their responsibility to the affected individuals as citizens and fellow human beings.
While there is obviously room for considerable debate about the exact definition of the duty of service to the public, there is no doubt that some variation on this theme is held out by most governments and professional groups involved in government as an essential obligation of all public servants.
We in Tanzania are at the moment in the midst of a veritable upsurge of interest in the spirit of public service among public sector managers. A commitment to public service is identified as a critical attribute of both the “well-performing” government organisation and the “new managerialism” emerging in the public sector