Understanding Government Advisors roles

Captain Nelson Tuhafeni Kalangula

It has become interesting to see advisory committees not utilised or listened to when it comes to key decisions.
It makes many if not all ask questions like; Who are they and what do they do? How are they different from the cabinet ministers? Why do we have so many of them and yet appear to portray to be less effective in their duties? Is the overwhelming number of advisors a sign of job employment on promises perhaps? and the list of questions goes on. Let us have a look at it together and understand what advisors are to any government, and approach this with questions and possible answers.

Are Advisors needed in a Government?
Indeed they are needed, government advisors do play a important role in supporting and informing government leaders, enabling them to make informed decisions and effectively address complex challenges. Their expertise and insights can contribute to better policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation.
To further look into their importance, the following are some of the key reasons why government advisors are needed:
• Providing Expertise and Specialized Knowledge: Government advisors bring specialized knowledge and expertise in various domains, such as economics, policy analysis, science, technology, and international relations. They can provide in-depth analysis, identify potential issues, and offer recommendations based on their expertise.
• Supporting Decision-Making: Government advisors assist decision-makers by evaluating policy options, assessing potential impacts, and considering various perspectives. They can help ministers and other officials weigh the pros and cons of different approaches and make informed choices.
• Bridging the Gap Between Policy and Implementation: Government advisors can act as bridges between policy formulation and implementation. They can help communicate policy goals and objectives to relevant stakeholders, ensure effective coordination between different departments, and monitor the implementation process.
• Promoting Transparency and Accountability: Government advisors can contribute to transparency and accountability by providing objective and impartial advice. They can help identify potential conflicts of interest, ensure ethical considerations are taken into account, and foster a culture of open governance.
• Adapting to Changing Needs and Challenges: Government advisors can help governments adapt to evolving circumstances and emerging challenges. They can provide insights into new trends, technologies, and societal shifts, enabling governments to respond effectively and proactively.

While government advisors play a valuable role, it is essential to ensure their accountability and transparency. Clear guidelines and ethical frameworks should be in place to prevent conflicts of interest and ensure that advisors operate in the public interest. Additionally, mechanisms should exist for evaluating the effectiveness of advisors and their contributions to government decision-making.
In most governments, there is a hierarchy and categories of advisors, with each level advising the level above it. At the top of the hierarchy is the head of state, who is typically advised by a cabinet of ministers. The cabinet ministers are in turn advised by a team of senior civil servants and experts. These experts may come from academia, the private sector, or other government agencies.
The specific titles of these advisors vary from country to country, but they may include policy advisors, economic advisors, legal advisors, and scientific advisors. These advisors provide the head of state and cabinet ministers with information and analysis on a wide range of issues, and they help to develop and implement government policy.
In some countries, there is also a separate advisory body that is independent of the government. This body may be made up of experts from academia, the private sector, or civil society. The role of this body is to provide the government with objective and independent advice on a range of issues.
The use of advisors in government is essential for ensuring that the government has access to the best possible information and advice when making decisions. Advisors can help to identify potential problems, develop creative solutions, and implement effective policies.

Government performance with many advisors
There is a danger in taking advise from many sources, same as in personal relationships, one would not want to be advised and put out ones affairs out there for influence on that relationship, it often doesn’t end well. Government can perform poorly when the number of advisors is overwhelmingly high. There are a number of reasons for this:
• Too many advisors can lead to information overload and decision paralysis – When there are too many voices offering advice, it can be difficult for decision-makers to know which advice to follow. This can lead to delays in decision-making and missed opportunities.
• Advisors may have conflicting agendas – Different advisors may have different priorities and goals, which can make it difficult to reach consensus on the best course of action. This can lead to infighting and a lack of coordination within the government.
• Advisors may not be experts in the relevant field – Not all advisors are created equal. Some advisors may be more knowledgeable and experienced than others. If the government is not careful in selecting its advisors, it may end up with advisors who are not qualified to provide sound advice.
• Advisors may be too close to the government – If advisors are too close to the government, they may be reluctant to offer criticism or challenge the status quo. This can lead to groupthink and a lack of innovation.
• Many Advisors can be costly to tax payers – The Advisors have to be paid for their services and that is topped up with many other perks and protection. This is a waste of government resources at the expense of taxpayers with no end results to show for.

In order to avoid these problems, governments need to carefully select their advisors and create a culture where advisors feel comfortable offering honest and objective advice. Governments should also have clear processes in place for evaluating the performance of their advisors – a small group adds more quality and is easier to hold accountable than a bloated one.
Namibia over the past terms of the government in charge have not given good results that indicate that the Advisors are doing their work as expected. Advisors are there for performance improvement and increasing the number of advisors, ministers, and their deputies (all being Advisors to the president) has proven to be a waste of tax payers money and indeed made the government less efficient. We should focus on quality and do away with quantity when it comes to good governance. As much as we want to give all our associates jobs when we get in office, it is a practice that should be advised against and rather look to utilise human resources based on merits and need at the time. It is a lesson of which I hope many leaders are taking note on, if we are striving to do better for our country and its people.

(Captain/Flight Lieutenant Nelson Tuhafeni Kalangula is a former Namibian Air force Helicopter pilot, an Aviation Safety and Aircraft Accident investigation certificate holder, Author in the making, with a Bachelor of Commerce Honours and B-Tech Business Administration in academic qualifications.)

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