Reforming the Public Sector

The Minister of Finance in his budget speech last Friday announced the strategy to bring “about a major public sector reform programme.” He went on to say that the success of this initiative “hinges on effective and expeditious implementation of numerous reforms, new policies, vital national projects and modern ways of doing things.”

To this end the Minister announced, among other things, the merger of a number of public sector organisations which share close affinities or whose functions seem to overlap one another, the objective being efficiency and effectiveness gains.

Most of these parastatal bodies were established outside the Central Government machinery for conducting commercial, economic, service-oriented or social activities, which require a large degree of autonomy and freedom from bureaucratic interference. There were some 88 under the purview of the PRB in 2013 and 99 in 2016. They have been used, as in most developing countries, as instruments to promote social and economic development.

Parastatal organisations were established with very good intentions, but problems arose for different reasons, namely encroachment upon the goals and objectives of other organisations, poor performance due to inefficient and ineffective boards or CEOs, strained communication or even deadlock between the parastatal body and the parent ministry/minister – all to the detriment of the organisations.

The proposed mergers seek to redress these failings, but there will surely be resistance to change. Further the merged organisations will have to go through a long process of redefining their purposes by law (enactment); organisational structures will need to be redesigned and channels of communications between the board, ministry and management made more fluid. Above all, there is a need to have an inbuilt mechanism to coordinate and monitor the performance of the organisations with a view to ensuring that they fulfill their respective goals and objectives, with economy and efficiency.

We can cast doubt on the effectiveness of the control mechanisms but nevertheless take comfort in the commitment whereby “the Public Sector Efficiency Bureau (created by the Financial Secretary some time back) will be reengineered and located in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development”.

Let us hope that the reforms will happen expeditiously… faster than the transformations advocated in the 2016 PRB Report.

Mohun Aujayeb

 

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