40 A Strong Secretariat Interview with Ruth Simba, Director of Human Resources and Administration T he Directorate of Human Resources and Admin- istration is the engine room of the EAC Secretariat. They manage and execute many transactions and processes that are necessary for the EAC to perform its du- ties. The EAC-GIZ programme works with the directorate on aspects of interdepartmental cooperation and organisa- tional development, such as departmental retreats that were jointly organised and evaluated. The cooperation aims at strengthening the directorates’ ability to improve the quali- ty of the daily processes of the EAC. What does ‘a strong Secretariat’ mean to you? A strong secretariat should be the central organ of the inte- gration process.Among other functions, a secretariat should manage a motivated team of well-resourced professionals as well as the finances of the community and coordinate the strategic planning process under a strong, committed, and accountable leadership. This machinery should coordi- nate and harmonise policies and strategies relating to the development of the community through the Coordination Committee.The specific functions of the EAC Secretariat are contained in Article 71 of the Treaty Establishing the East African Community, such as the general administration and financial management of the Community, the strategic planning, management and monitoring of programmes for the development of the Community or the custody of the property of the Community. What is the status of the Secretariat now? Viewed as the most advanced Regional Economic Commu- nity (REC) of the African continent by many partners due to the relatively rapid implementation of the Customs Union and progress on the Common Market, the Secretariat of the EAC is working in the right direction. We are the only ISO certified REC and the fruits of that initiative are only now starting to show. An example of this is the implementation of safety standards in the Secretariat that were previously ignored. What has marked 2017 for you? We have initiated change at the strategic level with the ap- proval of the 5th Development Strategy, as well as at a very practical level. The inter-departmental retreats are among this year’s important achievements, enabling us to formu- late meaningful ways to improve the performance of the Secretariat. We are particularly proud of initiatives such as the Tea Together, the Open-Door-Policy and the Wellness Programme (including aerobics three times a week). Sim- ple and straight-forward ideas, such as keeping our office doors open and the use of WhatsApp groups, have greatly improved internal communication. All of these efforts rep- resent a shift in the working culture at the EAC. What’s next? As Director of Human Resource and Administration, I am committed to the Secretariat and its growth and evolution. During our retreat this year, my team and I, in our function as the support directorate, were able to identify the things we wanted to see realised in the future. In order to never lose sight of these goals, I have put them on the wall of my office, thus creating our compass for 2018. Amongst these are some aspects of self-motivation and team spirit which I wholly wish to develop further. However, the topic of ef- ficiency was greatly discussed at the retreat and commit- ments were made to improvements in that area that we are both willing and able to deliver on.