Relieved from the Jurassic claws… an opportunity to revamp the public sector?

In his address at the launch of the ‘Economic Mission Statement’ with a view to achieving a “second economic miracle” and Vision 2030, the Prime Minister said: “…I want civil servants to act like passionate facilitators for achievements to happen. I want the public service to be efficient and creative because I have relieved you from the Jurassic claws…”

The many reactions to this statement from different quarters – from Ministers, MPs, trade unionists to other opinion leaders — brought me back to the 2013 PRB Report which laid down among its recommendations whats needed for service delivery to become more performance and results oriented.

Mike Stevens of the World Bank in a memorandum entitled ‘Comments on the latest Report of the Mauritius Pay Review 2013’, wrote:

“What to me is unusual about the report is that in it the PRB goes far beyond its core mandate of recommending pay and grading reforms, addresses the full landscape of public service reform. As a consequence, it waxes strongly on the need for a more performance oriented approach to running government. In this sense, the PRB report is almost a road map for the development of performance management in the public service…

“Overall, the PRB report is excellent in spelling out the technical components that have to be in place for a shift to a more performance oriented government to take place, but a lot less informative about the leadership changes that have to take place, and the institutional obstacle to overcome (which are likely to range from bureaucratic lethargy, union opposition, staff ignorance, poor coordination between management agencies, and lack of understanding among civil servants why old ways cannot continue in the face of future challenges facing Mauritius).”

It is no secret to anybody that the 2013 PRB Report contains a long list of reform initiatives for the whole public sector. These are, among others: e-govt, IT, training and skills development, flatter structures, linking pay and incentives to performance and results, uninterrupted counter service, mechanisms/processes for feedback, flexitime arrangements, suggestions and complaints, streamlining of operations, focus on deliverables. There are also other reports/studies by consultants on bettering the public sector service delivery. Most of the reforms initiatives have not taken shape for the reasons enunciated by Stevens above.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” is the famous adage of Albert Einstein. I am confident that relieved of its archaic “Jurassic claws” and other nuances, the public service with the patronage of the High Powered Committee can do things differently. The public sector can within a very short period of time take the best from the proposals of the PRB and the reports of other Committee or Consultants and revamp the services to deliver efficiently, fairly, effectively and courteously, and thereby scale new heights.

 

  • Published in print edition on 11 September 2015

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