Stop the mad rush for PS, CAS jobs, there is life outside public office


My colleague Frank Kretzschmar and I recently hosted another of our leaders’ circles, where participants tell personal stories around a theme we select. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

I still recall the intense relief I felt when I resigned from public office. The daily routine of fluid diaries, stiff protocols and the discharge of technical and management duties had been exhausting.

Though that had been quite fulfilling, the time to serve from the private sector space had come.

I was convinced that if my skills and capacity had helped to add value while in government, they would help to do so while outside too.

Many years later, this reality has been manifest. I have had a wide latitude to enhance livelihoods and contribute to development within and outside this country.

This is perhaps true of many other professionals. It is true of many other people who intentionally exited, or were exited, from public office.

They have used the skills, experience and networks acquired while in government to re-invent themselves and grow a whole life outside it.

And they’ve perhaps made money and touched many more lives in the process. It takes focus, hard work and discipline. But it remains doable.

Indeed, anyone keen on applying themselves to earn legitimate returns, and live within their means, can transit to a fulfilling and successful life outside government.

Why do I belabour this? In the recent past, the Public Service Commission has shared lists with thousands of applicants for the few available offices of Principal Secretary (PS) and Chief Administrative Secretaries (CAS).

These are full-time offices. Applicants for PS were over 9,000, and those for CAS over 5,000. One peculiarity with the lists was the inordinately high number of applicants who were former high public office holders.

Some had been PSs, CASs, Members of Parliament or county governors. Indeed, there were cases of applicants who previously occupied higher-profile offices applying for the lower-rung office of CAS.

This can confuse those in their early public office careers, and even observers. Because some things do not add up. Why, for instance, would one want to go serve in offices lower than those they previously occupied?

Why would some of the applicants who have served decades in public offices, and with excellent management and technical skills, not want to grow a life outside of government, and leave others to take up those offices?

Could it be the paranoia of leading a life outside the public office without substantive titles? Or could it be that they feel that making money inside the government is comparatively easier?

I think these are perceptions that are best shed early because one cannot hang onto public office for a lifetime.

Moreover, these well-schooled and experienced senior citizens would perhaps help to speak to our national agenda of growing the economy and employment.

They could establish consultancies, training institutions, and industrial and value-adding processing plants for many of our food and cash crops.

Many have invaluable networks and resources. They’d perhaps be much happier complementing government efforts and serving communities from such private ventures.