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The importance of employees in local government

In any company or business, employee productivity ad competence plays a key role in the smooth running and efficiency of the company. It is for this reason that large private businesses spend money on employee team building activities and employee training seminars. Some companies even go as far as doing regular employee satisfaction surveys. Companies do this to ensure that employees are satisfied in the workplace, because if the employees are happy they are more likely to be productive. Satisfied employees are less likely to be absent from work, late for work, or idle during working hours. This human capital is a vital component in the success of the business.
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In local government the human capital factor is even more important. The employees of local government ideally need to have a mind-set devoted to putting public needs first. An employee in this sphere of government also needs to adopt a unique skill set and mentality compared to the rest of society. A local government employee needs to have dignity, integrity, be conscientious and courteous to members the public as they work closest with the public. Local Government staff needs to be mindful that there daily action or inaction affects the community, and for that reason should strive to provide the best level service and cause minimal inconvenience to the public. If employees are equipped with the correct skills and have relevant values, then issues such as fraud, corruption, theft and mismanagement of resources can be avoided.

Member’s of the public want to feel confident in the local authority. It is the local government employee’s responsibility to instill that confidence in the hearts of the community. Quick efficient service is one method of obtaining this objective; another would be by being transparent. Transparency is important in every regard especially concerning their financial transactions.

It is one matter to provide hassle-free service delivery, but this is not the main task. The main challenge is transparency. The local government receives funds from the national budget, from charging for certain services and in some cases incomes generated from other revenue streams. The public have questions regarding these incomes. Questions like: Are these funds being used for the benefit of the public? Why are certain services charged for? Are the most cost-effective methods being utilized? These are all questions that should be answered. Transparency in financial matters allows the public to understand what is occurring within local government and answers the most frequently asked questions which they may have.

The employees at local government level need to be able to provide these answers to the public with an open mind. They need to be able to take criticism and suggestions from the public in order to improve there services. Transparency holds employees accountable to the public and minimises the risk of fraud, corruption and funds mismanagement.

To get an idea of how the local government functions, let us understand the following: Each municipality has a council and it is within this council that financial decisions can be made. These decisions are then implemented by the local government staff and municipal officials. Each year, the council must submit a budget for the municipality as well as service delivery and development plans. The municipal manager is responsible for co-ordinating staff to implement the plans and programmes approved by the council. The submission of the budget and planning is compulsory and it is the start of transparency within local government.

It is the task of local government employees to ensure that the budget is strictly adhered to and that the community receives adequate service. The mismanagement of funds often leads to budget short falls and one of the items that become negated and removed from the budget to accommodate for these shortfalls, is the general maintenance and upkeep of existing infrastructure; issues like road maintenance, replacement of sewerage pipes, unblocking of public drains etc. these items gets put on the backburner while more pressing matters are attended to. However, when maintenance is put off for too long, eventually the infrastructure has to be completely replaced costing more than frequent maintenance would have. So adhering to the budget avoids this chain reaction.

A lot of emphasis is put on the responsibilities of the local government employee. Their work affects the public on a daily basis. It is thus vital that local government employees are thoroughly trained, and that they are instilled with the core values required for serving the public. This will aid them in providing quality, innovative and cost-effective service. The employee must always be mindful that the community’s needs come first, because only when the community’s needs are fulfilled, can the municipal employee regard themselves as successful.

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